News from Europe (11/10/2007)

All items via the excellent gmfreeireland news page http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/index.php

1.Polish AG Minister still firm on GMO rejection
2.EU criticises Sweden over transparency move
3.EU fails to agree on GMO potato
4.Call against patenting of plants and animals

1.Polish AG Minister still firm on GMO rejection
Pierwszy Portal Rolny, 10 October 2007.
Abstract/Translation Polish => English: Anna Witowska, Food & Water Watch Europe

Polish Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Wojciech Mojzesowicz met with the Food Industry Council and after being presented with samples of GM corn that is resistant to diseases - he still remains a GMO opponent.

Mojzesowicz said: 'This corn looks nice but is it healthy? Somebody brought it here and just because somebody brought it to this meeting, I can't just believe it's good.'

Polish government is not going to embrace GMOs and supports the project of banning all GM feed by August 2008. Currently, Poland imports 2 million tons of GM-soy. Representatives of Polish feed and animal industries are protesting.

Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, Polish Vice-Minister of Agriculture, does not see a problem here. 'The world has enough non-GM soy. For example, Ukraine has proposed to sell Poland needed 2 million tons of non-GM soy.'

The experts from the Institute of Agricultural Economics disagree. They claim that only 5-10% of world's animal feed comes from non-GM soy.

2.EU criticises Sweden over transparency move
By Helena Spongenberg
EUobserver.com, 10 October 2007.

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has taken the first step of legal action against Sweden for having given public access to a confidential document ‚ a move that could ultimately see Stockholm defending its traditional policy of transparency in EU courts.

Late last month the commission sent a formal letter to the Swedish authorities asking for explanation as to why environment group Greenpeace in 2005 got access to a document about a new type of genetically modified corn feed to be launched by Monsanto - the world's leading producer of biotech seeds.

The information had on Monsanto's request been classified as secret by the Dutch government where it had handed in its application.

The commission then contacted Sweden after the biotech firm had complained that the leak could have damaged the company.

Greenpeace had been refused access to the report in the Netherlands and therefore turned to Sweden where - after taking the issue to the highest court - the NGO finally got the report from the Swedish Board of Agriculture - the government's expert authority in the field of agricultural and food policy.

Article 25

The EU executive referred to an article laid out in an EU directive for genetically modified organisms, which says that if an application with a request to market a biotech product has been classified by one member states, then this confidentiality must also count when other member state authorities take part in the application.

'Such a system would not function if different competent authorities would be able to have different standpoints in the matter of whether information would be treated confidentially or not,' the commission argues in its letter, according to Swedish newspaper MedieV”rlden.

It is on these grounds that Brussels has asked Sweden to explain how it implemented the directive into national law; whether Sweden recognises decisions made by other member states concerning the directive and how they justify their own decision.

It is too early to say what the Swedish government will reply to the commission, Magnus Bl¸cher from the legal office of Swedish environment ministry told EUobserver.

He said the government is expecting an explanation from the agriculture board next week after which officials from the environment, justice and foreign affairs ministries will work together on an answer for Brussels.

Stockholm has until the end of November to reply to the commission's letter.

Swedish transparency

The principle of free access to public records in Sweden is very important, said Per HultengÂrd - freedom of expression expert at the Swedish Newspaper Publishers' Association (TU).

It is part of Sweden's cultural, historical and legal background. It is very well established, he told this news-site.

Mr Hultengård argued that when dealing with public documents sent to the Swedish authorities from other countries they should be subject to Swedish law and sometimes that clashes with community law.

The issue was controversial when Sweden negotiated its EU membership in 1994, with Stockholm declaring several times that it would maintain the widest public access and that it would strongly defend this right.

'I assume the Swedish government will continue this position', Mr Hultengård said.

3.EU fails to agree on GMO potato
Agence France Presse, 10 October 2007.

BRUSSELS - EU states on Wednesday failed to reach agreement on whether to authorise a new genetically modified potato.

Since July, the biotech industry has been awaiting an EU decision on an application by German chemicals giant BASF to approve the genetically modified (GMO) potato for use as animal feed.

However the proposal, which scientific experts from the 27 EU member states could not agree on, would also allow for a 0.9 percent tolerance for 'adventitious presence' in the general food market.

That means the GMO potato could not be deliberately introduced into the human food chain but its accidental residual introduction could be tolerated.

After the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health returned 'no definitive opinion' on the matter, the decision must now go up to EU ministerial level and if there is still no agreement within three months then the matter will fall back into the lap of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

A dozen EU member states voted against authorising the GMO potato -- Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovenia -- thereby ruling out the qualified majority required.

Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and Portugal abstained in the vote.

The minority of countries in favour of authorising the potato were Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden, If the decision is left by default to the Commission it will refer to the advise of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which found that it was 'improbable' that the potato would harm human or animal health or the environment.

However, some environmental associations have criticised EFSA's findings and have warned that the potato has a gene resistant to certain antibiotics.

The potato was genetically engineered to produce more starch, which has industrial uses including making paper, glue or textiles.

But BASF wants to use the residue and skin in animal feed. If it does get the green light it will be the first genetically modified product allowed since the end of a moratorium in 2004.

4.Who owns broccoli?
Call against patenting of plants and animals
No-Patents-On-Seeds.org, 9 October 2007

A year ago, farmers and development aid groups all over the world called for a halt of patents on plants and animals. The call was directed at the Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office.

This call can now also be signed by indivuals, due to large demand. Please support this action for a world-wide prohibiton of patents on seeds and livestock. You can help by collecting signatures and sending them to the initiators (see below). The call asks political institutions and patent offices to act immediately in order to stop the patenting of plants and animals - especially conventional breeds.

Visit the following site for more information and to download the list of signatures:

Go to: 'Der globale Aufruf'

Ruth Tippe
Kein Patent auf Leben
Frohschammerstr. 14
D-80807 München
[email protected]

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