Food Law News - EU - 2007


Council Minutes, 20 February 2007

GMOs Council discussions on genetically modified organisms

The following is an extract from the minutes of the Environment Council held on 20 February 2007

The Council was invited to act, by qualified majority, relatively to two decisions proposed by the Commission:

a) requesting Hungary to repeal the prohibition of use and sale in its territory of a genetically modified maize (Zea mays L. line MON 810) expressing the Bt cry1a(b) gene (15786/06);

b) authorising the placing on the market of a carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L., line 123.2.38) genetically modified for flower colour (16434/06).

Hungarian Zea mays L. line MON 810

Concerning the maize MON 810 provisionally prohibited in Hungary , the Council adopted, by qualified majority ( FIN , UK , NL and SE voting against and Romania abstaining), a decision rejecting the proposal from the Commission.

The Council justified its decision on the grounds that:

Commission Decision of 22 April 1998 gave consent for the placing in the market of Zea mays L. line MON 810. On 3 August 1998, the French authorities granted such consent. On 20 January 2005, Hungary informed the Commission of its decision to provisionally prohibit the use and sale of Zea mays L. line MON 810, justifying the decision.

The European Food Safety Authority (which replaced the relevant scientific committees) concluded, on 8 June 2005, that the information submitted by Hungary did not constitute new scientific evidence sufficient to invalidate the environmental risk assessment of Zea mays line MON 810 justifying a prohibition of its use and sale in Hungary .

On 24 June 2005, the Council rejected, by qualified majority, a Commission proposal requesting Austria to repeal a similar safeguard clause and presented its reasons in a statement, calling on the Commission to gather further evidence on the GMO in question.

In November 2005, EFSA was consulted again by the Commission, being, in particular, requested to take account of any further scientific information that had arisen subsequent to the previous scientific opinion. In its opinion of 29 March 2006, EFSA concluded that there is no reason to believe that the continued placing on the marked of MON 810 maize is likely to cause any adverse effects for human and animal health or the environment under the conditions of its consent (see http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/science/gmo/gmo_opinions/1439.html).

Therefore, the Commission prepared a proposal for a decision asking Hungary to repeal the safeguard measures concerning Zea mays L. line MON 810, now submitted to the Council, which has a period of three months (ends on 22 February 2007) to act by qualified majority.

It is recalled that a similar proposal inviting Austria to repeal identical measures was rejected by a qualified majority of the Council on 18 December 2006.

Carnation Dianthus caryophyllus L., line 123.2.38, genetically modified for flower colour

Concerning the genetically modified carnation, the Council could not reach qualified majority in favour or against the Commission proposal, consequently, it will be up to the Commission to take the decision.

The Netherlands authorities received a notification concerning the placing on the market of a carnation genetically modified for flower colour. They forwarded to the Commission their assessment report, concluding that the genetically modified carnation should be placed on the market for import, distribution and retailing as for any other carnation.

The Commission forwarded the assessment report to all other Member States, some of them having objections to the placing on the market in terms of monitoring plan, allergenicity and toxicity, and detection of the product.

In the light of these objections the EFSA was consulted and concluded, on 27 June 2006, that cut flowers of the genetically modified carnation Dianthus caryophyllus are unlikely to have an adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment in the context of its proposed ornamental use. EFSA also found that the scope of the monitoring plan is in line with the intended use of the carnation.

On 18 September 2006, the Commission consulted the Regulatory Committee on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs. Despite the favourable opinion delivered by the EFSA, the committee was unable to give an opinion. Consequently, on 5 December 2006, the Commission submitted a proposal to the Council, which has to act by qualified majority within a 3-month period of time from that date (ends on 5 March 2007).


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