Fischler to unveil key GMO recommendations (27/5/2003)

EU Observer

The task is to ensure "freedom for production", whether farmers want to use GMO seeds or biological [organic], EU agriculture commissioner FRANZ FISCHLER explained. (Photo: European Commission)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Are big biotechnology companies like Monsanto to pay or is it up to famers if the use of genetic modified seeds contaminates biological crops?

This key question was not settled during a meeting of EU farm ministers on Monday, 26 May, in Brussels to discuss coexistence between GMO and traditional production.

The responsible European commissioner, Franz Fischler, announced that recommendations on co-existence would be presented by the Commission in July.

The task is to ensure "freedom for production", whether farmers want to use GMO seeds or biological, he explained to the press following the ministers' discussion.

"There are a series of possibilities open for us to reduce risks considerably," Mr Fischler declared and mentioned the use of buffer zones and rotation of crops.

No poison

The Commissioner stated, however, that the whole issue was purely economical and had nothing to do with risk or risk management.  "The term contamination is used as if GMO was a poison," he declared. "We are dealing with authorised GMOs with no risk to health," the Commissioner added.

Nine-page strategy paper presented in March

In a nine-page strategy paper presented earlier this year by Mr Fischler, the biological farmers will have the burden of proving that their products are not contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMO).

The paper was criticised by environmental groups for putting the burden of costs and measures on those who wish to stay GMO free.  A number of EU countries have kept a ban on new GM products since 1999, which has recently brought the European Union on collision course with the US.  Earlier this month, the United States filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) complaining about the European moratorium on bio-engineered crops.  Since October 1991 the commercial release of only 18 GMOs have been authorised in the EU.

Stop genetic contamination
Contamination of conventional and organic crops is one of the major problems associated with the growing of genetically modified (GM) plants and one of the reasons why we believe there should be no releases of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) in the environment.

The European Commission acknowledged this problem and committed to ensuring the viability of conventional and organic farming and their sustainable co-existence with genetically modified crops (Brussels, 23.1.2002, COM(2002) 27 final, Action 17 and Action 20).

However, the current proposals communicated to the Commission by Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler completely fail to address this issue.  Ask the European Commission not to dodge its responsibility and to take action against genetic contamination from GMOs.

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