NEWS

EU ministers focus on GM organisms

EU officials and agriculture ministers yesterday discussed the issue of food quality and agricultural reform at an informal meeting on the Ionian island of Corfu, on the day that the United States announced a plan to challenge an EU moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that was prompted by citizens’ concerns over food safety. In Brussels, the European Commission said the US intention to request World Trade Organization (WTO) consultations on the EU’s authorization system for GMOs, the first step in a possible dispute, was «legally unwarranted, economically unfounded and politically unhelpful.» David Byrne, the EU commissioner for health and consumer protection, said: «We have been working hard in Europe to complete our regulatory system in line with the latest scientific and international developments. The finalization process is imminent. This is essential to restore consumer confidence in GMOs in Europe.» In comments to Agence France-Presse in Corfu, he termed the US timing as «eccentric.» The EU said its position on GMOs was in line with WTO rules. It said the so-called «moratorium» relates to the fact that since October 1998 no new GMOs have been authorized for release into the environment due to the fact that the EU’s regulatory regime was incomplete. A new framework came into force in October 2002 and authorization has begun to be granted. Also, the EU is finalizing the adoption of rules on labeling and traceability. Byrne praised the new EU legislation which the European Parliament will vote on in July and expressed optimism that soon new authorization for GMO products would be granted. He said the labeling would give consumers a choice. Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler told a news conference he was «certain» that the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would be concluded in June. He said that the objections of some EU members were «tactical maneuvers.» About 3,000 farmers from all over Greece expressed their opposition to CAP reform in a protest in Corfu. They said this would mean a reduction in production and that funding was not guaranteed for Mediterranean produce.