GMO policy to be based on science findings

BRUSSELS – The European Commission will treat approval requests for new genetically modified (GMO) foods based on science, the next EU food safety chief said on Friday, signaling that existing GMO policy is unlikely to change. Speaking to reporters after a hearing at the European Parliament, Markos Kyprianou said the longstanding deadlock among European Union governments over authorizing new GMOs would not prevent the EU executive from exercising its right to issue an approval. «If the member states continue not to agree, then it will be up to the Commission to take a decision, based on scientific evidence. And my decision will be based on scientific evidence as well,» Kyprianou said. «It depends on each case specifically and the facts surrounding it,» he said. Under the EU’s decision-making procedure, where a weighted voting system operates, if EU ministers fail after three months either to reject or endorse a proposal to allow imports of a new GMO, the Commission gains the right to issue an approval. Green groups had been eagerly awaiting Kyprianou’s hearing at the European Parliament, part of a compulsory process to confirm his appointment, to see if his views on biotechnology are similar to those of his predecessor, Ireland’s David Byrne. But Kyprianou, a Cypriot, gave no clues on where he stands on the most immediate GMO issue for the 25-nation bloc – setting limits for how much GMO material may occur in a batch of conventional seed before it must be labeled as biotech. «On (seed) thresholds, we will just wait for the next proposal from the environment commissioner,» he said, referring to Greece’s Stavros Dimas, set to assume the environment portfolio in the next Commission due to take office in November. «The question is to balance the various facts and economic realities. I don’t have a predisposed position on this point yet,» he said after the three-hour hearing. Last week, Dimas said at his Parliament hearing that he favored a «detection level» of 0.1 percent, which is the lowest technically feasible and also favored by green groups.