European Economic and Social Committee (CES/04/148), 17 December 2004
In its December plenary session the EESC adopted two opinions concerning genetically modified crops and the European action plan for organic food and farming. The Committee recommends basic principles for the coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional ones. It notably calls for the limit for labelling GMOs in non-genetically-modified seed to be set at the virtual detection threshold.
“It is easier to control and keep clean 4000 tons of crops than five million tons of harvest,” summarises the Rapporteur (Mr Bernd Voss, Group III – Various interests) a lively EESC debate on the coexistence of genetically modified crops and conventional or organic ones. The Committee recommends that the limit for labelling GMOs in non-genetically-modified seed must be set at the virtual detection threshold.
In its own initiative opinion on the coexistence between genetically modified crops with conventional and organic crops, the EESC has elaborated basic principles that should be respected. Its main recommendations are:
The EESC opinion specifies further that scientific principles must be elaborated, dealing with the current state of scientific knowledge. Risk management must be guided by precautions and the use of the best available technologies. Identification and labelling of genetically modified crops must be assured through the chain of production. Binding, practicable, verifiable and robust standards for good professional practice at all stages of production are a decisive for co-existence.
The Committee insists that the regulations on labelling and purity of seed are crucial in guaranteeing coexistence. Civil liability provisions must fully cover compensation for eventual financial damages. The total costs of coexistence need to be established, kept to a minimum, and shared in line with the polluter-pays principle.
The question of GMOs is also present in the EECS opinion on the European action plan for organic food and farming. The EESC criticises the fact that the question of how Europe-wide organic production can be guaranteed in the future remains unanswered. Therefore it recommends that the GMO contamination limits for all seeds should be set at the detection threshold.
The EESC welcomes the Commissions proposals, in particular the marketing campaigns and consumer information. Efforts to harmonise norms and inspections must not overburden businesses and must allow for regional specificities. The Committee expresses its concern about the discussion on the financial perspectives: a cut in resources for rural development would set back organic farming and the organic food sector in Europe .