Science in Society Archive

Europe to remain GM-free

GM crops will be kept out of Europe, despite new legislation designed to free up approvals.

One reason was given by I-SIS a year ago ("Europe's new rules could sink all GMOs" ISIS News 2001, 11/12, p.4-5 ).

The new Directive, which came into effect on 17 October, requires a full environmental risk assessment before any GM release. It also demands full consultation with all interested parties and compulsory monitoring during the trials and post-release stages. And any license will only be granted for an initial 10-year period.

The Directive actually requires much more, especially 'event-specific' molecular data for unique identification of the GM line, which also prove that the line is genetically uniform and stable. Such data simply do not exist. Regulators must now insist on this data as a matter of routine.

The other reason is that there is still a moratorium in place, and lifting it depends on the EU environment ministers approving supplementary legislation on the labelling and traceability of GM crops. These proposals, which seek mandatory labelling for any food containing more than 1% GMs, were discussed at an environment council in Luxembourg. But agreement is a long way off, with a hard core of member states, led by France, wanting a lower threshold. They also want labelling to apply to processed foods in which GM traces have been destroyed, and to animal products such as eggs and milk.

Environmental campaigners point out that even with tough labelling, major problems such as liability, seed purity and the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops need to be resolved before the moratorium is lifted.

The USA is growing increasingly frustrated with the block on exports of a large proportion of its soya and maize crops. A US trade representative insisted the ban was illegal. He called for "an immediate, unconditional and unambiguous statement that the biotech approvals process is restarting now".

A moratorium has been in place since June 1999, effectively creating a GM-free zone in the EU.

Only a small amount of GM maize is currently grown, which was approved before the moratorium took hold.

Article first published 25/10/02


  1. "European Union remains GM-free" By Philip Clarke, Europe editor, FarmersWeekly interactive, 18 October 2002,

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