UK: EU Move on GM Moratorium?

Last Updated: 10 December 2002

Pressure builds as US trade war looms

The process for the approval of GM (genetically modified) crops and foods has stalled in Europe for over four years, in the face of implacable opposition from a number of Member States (and consumer/environmental lobby groups). US trade officials are reported as being poised to urge the US to bring proceedings against the EU before the World Trade Organization for blocking imports of GM food1. However, some progress was made this month as Denmark and the Commission pushed EU Ministers to reach a consensus, rather than risk a legal complaint being filed by the US and face possible trade sanctions.

EU Ministers pave the way for thresholds on labelling and adventitious GM presence

A political agreement was reached on the proposal for a regulation governing GM food and feed at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 27-28 November2. At that meeting, a consensus was reached upon the thresholds for products containing adventitious or technically unavoidable traces of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) intended for direct use as food or feed. In essence:

  • a product would be allowed on the market, if it contained adventitious traces of less than 0.5% of authorised3 GMOs (or GMOs which had received a favourable scientific assessment (as being risk-free), but which had not yet been authorised in the EU); and
  • a product should be labelled as containing a GMO, if it contained more than 0.9% of material of a GMO, whether destined for human consumption or animal feed. No labelling would be required for the trace presence of a GMO at below this level.

EU Agriculture Ministers endorsed this political agreement on 1 December 2002.

Traceability of GM products

However, the compromise will face a further challenge today (9 December) when EU Environment Ministers debate the same issues and, in particular, the vexed question of the import of food products (and seed) from the US which may contain unauthorised GMOs. EU Ministers are expected to endorse a system for ensuring the traceability of products containing GMOs, which includes:

  • establishing a "unique identifier" code for each GMO to allow the retrieval of information concerning its traits, characteristics and transformation processes;
  • procedures to identify the operators in the supply chain for the products;
  • transmission by operators of information concerning the identity of a specific product;
  • retention of information by operators for a period of five years; and
  • co-ordinated approaches to inspections and controls.

The proposal, if adopted, would also extend labelling provisions to pre-packaged products consisting of or containing GMOs, obliging operators to use wording such as "this product contains GMOs" on labels or in connection with the display of the product. Suppliers would be obliged to provide operators with information, so far as food and feed are to be produced or derived from such GMOs.

Further measures

Both of these political agreements will face further scrutiny by the European Parliament next year before ratification.

The question of setting the appropriate thresholds for the adventitious presence of GMOs in batches of seed remains to be agreed under a separate proposal4. However, in the light of the debate between the Commission and the EU Scientific Committee on Plants on the appropriate levels, there is a need for consistency with these measures.5

Comment

Consumer groups will welcome these political developments as promoting the freedom of choice. However, industry may be more sceptical as there is still no real insight into whether the moratorium upon approvals/commercialisation of GMOs will be lifted in the short term, despite pressure from the Commission upon Member States to do so. The US will be monitoring developments carefully as world trade talks continue on a number of trade issues with the EU. It remains to be seen whether this represents a significant step towards resolving the current deadlock.

1 The US may bring proceedings before the WTO Dispute Settlement Body claiming that the EU's position is discriminatory to the US by imposing a trade barrier, contrary to promoting free trade and competition. If the Dispute Settlement Body's panel found in favour of the US, then the US would be given the option of imposing limited trade sanctions to try to force compliance by the EU.

2 The regulation aims at establishing a framework for the traceability of products consisting of or containing GMOs, and food and feed derived from GMOs, with the objective of facilitating accurate labelling, monitoring of the effects on the environment and, where appropriate, on human health. The regulation aims also at facilitating the implementation of appropriate risk management measures including, if necessary, withdrawal of products from the market.

3 Within the EU, the regime for approval of GMOs is regulated by Directive 2001/18/EC (which came into force on 17 October 2002, replacing Directive 90/220/EEC). For a GMO to be authorised to be commercialised, it must have a full Part C marketing consent. Products including GMOs destined for food or animal feed use must also be approved the novel foods regime (Regulation (EC) 258/97).

4 In October 2000, interim measures were adopted by the EU Standing Committee for Agriculture in October 2000 (and endorsed by the UK Government) setting the permissible level of adventitious presence of GM content in conventional seed at 0.5% for any GM event authorised in compliance with Directive 2001/18/EC.

5 Following fierce lobbying by those Member States opposed to commercialisation of GM crops, the Commission proposed revised thresholds (in the absence of warning labels) of: 0.3% in seed batches of cross-pollinating crops and 0.5% in self-pollinating or vegetatively-propagated crops for authorised GM crops and 0% for non-authorised GMOs. However, the EU Scientific Committee on Plants found the Commission's proposal unworkable. The Committee recognised that a zero level of unauthorised GM seed is unobtainable in practice, since seed production is a natural process, taking place in the field, not the laboratory. Moreover, increases in GM crop production would make the proposed thresholds ever more difficult to achieve. The Committee also found it illogical to outlaw inadvertent contamination by crops awaiting approval or being field evaluated. The Committee recognised that a major constraint on defining levels of tolerance was the limit of analytical sensitivity. It found that the analytical method adopted must be capable of routine use, with appropriate sampling procedures and confidence limits. There remains no level playing field for testing or monitoring for the presence of adventitious GM material, prescribed by any form of EU-approved protocol. It is hoped that this gap will be filled to promote certainty for industry.

© Herbert Smith 2002

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

For more information on this or other Herbert Smith publications, please email us.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.