EU's GMO legislation heading in right direction, but some adjustments needed to ensure protection of health and environment, creation of internal market and proper implementation, studies say
October 28, 2011
– Two independent reports evaluating the European Union's legislation on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) conclude that there is broad support for the legislation's objectives and show that recent legislative Commission initiatives are heading in the right direction.
The documents, published today, also note that some adjustments are necessary if we are to meet the objectives of the legislation -the protection of health and the environment and the creation of an internal market- and to ensure that the legislation is properly implemented.
"These reports confirm that the problems of implementation of the GMO legislation do not stem from its design or its objectives, which remain relevant, but rather from the way these sensitive issues are handled at a political level", Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli said. "This is why targeted solutions, such as our GMO cultivation proposal, are so important since this particular proposal addresses a very specific political need, whilst maintaining the overall rigorous EU authorisation system"
To conclude: "The reports indicate that better implementation of the GMO legislation and carefully designed measures addressing certain issues are the best way forward. It is reassuring to see that many of the recommendations of the reports, which were compiled between 2009 and 2010, have already been addressed over the past year ".
The two reports were carried out by independent consultants on the Commission's behalf1. The first, a 238-page document, evaluates the EU's legislative framework in the field of GM food and feed. The second, a 137-page document, focuses on the legislative framework in the area of GMOs cultivation. The main goal of the exercise was to collect facts and opinions, particularly from stakeholders and competent authorities. The evaluations assessed the effectiveness and efficiency of the legislative processes and formulated options for the improvement and adjustment of the system.
The Commission, after the completion of both documents, carried out the necessary internal policy analysis on their findings. This process has just been completed, thus the Commission proceeds today with their publication.
The main findings
The two reports register broad support, from stakeholders and competent authorities alike, for the main objectives of the legislation, such as the protection of health and the environment and the creation of an internal market, as these objectives are consistent with the needs of society. Nevertheless, there's room for further improvement, according to the reports.
For instance, the reports note that the authorisation system could be more efficient, GMO cultivation would benefit from more flexibility and the risk assessment process from further harmonisation.. Good news is that only limited changes to address specific issues are sufficient rather than an overall change to the system.
On the right track – already delivered
The evaluation reports confirm that many actions the European Commission has launched in recent months are on the right track.
First, the Commission's package on GMO cultivation adopted in July 2010, and responding to the need for more flexibility on GMO cultivation, is identified as one such action. The package includes a recommendation on the co-existence of GM and non-GM plants that allows more flexibility to Member States to take into account their local, regional and national conditions when preparing their relevant legislation. The key proposal, currently under discussion in the Council and Parliament, is allowing Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory.
The more flexible approach on GM cultivation preserves the strict EU-wide authorisation system already in place, which is based on science, safety and consumer choice, the relevant report notes adding that the system could be made more efficient.
Second, the Commission also advanced on tackling the technical problem of low level presence (LLP) of unauthorised GMOs in imported feed products. A harmonising regulation addressing LLP in feed imports entered into force in July and was well-received by Member States and business operators
Third, the Commission published in April 2011 a report on socio-economic implications of GM crops, based on contributions from the Member States as requested by the 2008 Environment Council Conclusions. The Commission followed up by launching on 18 October 2011 a process to assist Member States in the collection and sharing of information
In the pipeline
In addition, the Commission will propose in the coming weeks more precise requirements for the submission of authorisation applications for imported products for food and feed use.
It is also revising the guidelines on environmental risk assessment to make them more detailed and precise and is already discussing them with Member States and stakeholders. The final document will have legal status and be endorsed by Member States. This is an important step towards a better implementation of the strict environmental risk assessment requirements of the GMO legislation.
Another priority aspect is the reinforcement of the monitoring of environmental effects by companies and by Member States. EFSA and Member States' experts are closely collaborating with the Commission to have more detailed guidelines.