Food Law News - EU - 2003

Commission Press Release (IP/03/835), 13 June 2003

GM FOOD - Commission welcomes final adoption of new Regulation on the transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms

The European Commission welcomed the formal adoption by EU Environment Ministers today of the Regulation on the transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This agreement marks an important step towards the full implementation into EU legislation of the provisions of the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which aims to ensure, on a global scale, the protection of biodiversity and of human health.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "The agreement reached today is a very important achievement, which confirms the commitment of the European Union to the objectives of the Biosafety Protocol. I take this opportunity to welcome the upcoming entry into force of this international agreement, most probably in September 2003, and congratulate the Republic of Ghana and the Republic of Palau for their recent ratification, which have triggered the entry into force of the Protocol. Thanks to the agreement reached today, the European Union will be in the position to honour its commitments in a timely manner".

The European Union ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety on 27 August 2002. The overall purpose of this United Nations agreement is to establish common rules to be followed in transboundary movements of GMOs in order to ensure, on a global scale, the protection of biodiversity and of human health.

In order to fulfil its international obligations, the EU must transpose the provisions of the Biosafety Protocol into its own legal order. This Regulation complements the existing regulatory framework, in particular for exports of GMOs, in order to align it with the provisions of the Biosafety Protocol.

Commissioner Wallström added: "This is a global issue which needs global action. The Biosafety Protocol establishes one set of basic international rules for dealing with GMOs. The Protocol will ensure that countries exporting or importing GMOs can rely on a sound regulatory framework, so that they can make informed choices. This Protocol will be particularly helpful for developing countries, which may lack the resources to properly assess the risks and the benefits of biotechnology. We call on countries to ratify and implement the Biosafety Protocol and we invite those who are not in a position to ratify to contribute to the achievement of its objectives on a voluntary basis."

The main elements of the Regulation are:

The current Regulation does not foresee new specific EU provisions for imports or for movements of GMOs between Member States. These operations will continue to be covered by existing EU legislation.

In light of the imminent entry into force of the Biosafety Protocol (see note at end of page), the Commission endeavoured to facilitate an agreement, which will allow the respect of the international deadlines. The Regulation is broadly in line with the overall approach of the Commission's original position, but includes stricter provisions as regards the explicit consent to be given from importing countries. Today's agreement is based on a close co-operation between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council.

The Regulation shall enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities. It shall apply from the day of entry into force of the Protocol, or at the date of entry into force of the Regulation, whichever shall be the later.

Note: 50 countries and the European Union have already ratified the Protocol, which shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification.

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