EU Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development report on GMOs. The conclusions- see below - are at the foot of the webpage.


on coexistence between genetically modified crops and conventional and organic crops


The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy calls on the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following points in its motion for a resolution:

1.   Believes that, in view of the current legal uncertainties and the lack of regulatory measures for coexistence, there is no sufficient legal basis for the authorisation of GM crops in European agriculture;

2.   It is regrettable that, having hosted a Round Table on 24 April of this year to review the results of research into coexistence, the Commission did not consult the stakeholders and organisations affected, Member States or the European Parliament on the substance of the Commission Recommendation of 23 July 2003 on guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices to ensure the coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming (2003/556/EC). The European Parliament points out that more than 70% of Europe's population are opposed to GM crops, and that a genuine democratic debate must be held with European citizens.

3.   Bearing in mind the ‘polluter pays’ principle, it is encouraging that the Commission recommendation states that ‘during the phase of introduction of a new production type in a region, operators (farmers) who introduce the new production type should bear the responsibility of implementing the farm management measures necessary to limit gene flow.’

4.   Believes that the introduction of GMO technologies in agriculture must not create additional costs or competitive disadvantages for farmers who chose not to use these technologies and wish to continue marketing their products as 'GM-free'.

5.   In contrast to the Commission’s view, the subject of coexistence is certainly not limited only to ‘economic aspects associated with the admixture of GM and non-GM crops’ but should also cover the coexistence of genetically modified and naturally occurring organisms and the consequences for the environment and human health, as well as freedom of choice for farmers and consumers, which needs to be safeguarded. The GMO consent holder must be liable for the costs involved with monitoring and controlling any wild species where transgenes have become incorporated into the genome of those species.

6.   With regard to the technical possibilities, the European Parliament points out that a synthesis report drawn up in May 2002 by the IPTS - JRC on scenarios for coexistence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops shows that the generalised marketing of GMOs on a European scale would involve very heavy socio-economic costs which would be difficult for the farming industry to deal with and overcome. Levels of segregation measures are therefore conditioned more by these costs than by technical capabilities.

7.   The limit value for labelling food and feed set in July of this year is applicable only where there are ‘adventitious or technically unavoidable’ traces of GMOs. Any food or feed containing traces of GMOs must now be labelled accordingly if their presence is down to chance or is technically unavoidable. In contrast to the Commission’s view, coexistence measures should therefore guarantee not only that conventional or organic food and feed do not exceed the limit value for labelling of 0.9 %; rather, all coexistence measures should have as their principal objective the exclusion of GMOs or material produced from them from conventional or organic food and feed, as far as is technically possible.

8.   In implementing Article 26a of Directive 2001/18/EC, Member States are called on to take legislative measures swiftly to safeguard the coexistence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops. It makes no sense at all that this requirement is not even mentioned in the Commission Recommendation.

9.   EU legislation must be drawn up to ensure that farm equipment (used to transport, sow, cultivate and harvest), storage facilities and modes of transportation which are used for GM crops do not contaminate conventional and organic crops.

10.   As the development of coexistence measures by Member States can lead not least to distortions of competition, the Commission needs urgently to propose a common legislative framework on coexistence covering the use of genetically modified organisms at all stages of food and feed production; this Community legislation must include clear measures providing for the precautionary and the polluter pays principles - at all stages of the chain - to be applied by defining rules which the consent holder and users of GMO crops must respect; the costs of these precautionary measures and of possible contamination must be carried by the consent holder and users of GM crops.

11.   It should be compulsory for farmers planning to cultivate GMOs to be recorded in the public register provided for in Article 31(3)(b) of Directive 2001/18/EC. Any farmer planning to cultivate GMOs should be required to request authorisation from the competent public authority at least 12 weeks in advance. Authorisation should be refused if the release is to be carried out in a protected area or within the minimum distance separating the planned plot from plots used for organic production, seed production or conventional non-GM production. In all other cases, authorisation should be subject to compliance as regards the anti-contamination measures planned by the farmer and the taking-out of insurance covering the environmental and economic damage caused by GMO cultivation.

12.   Community coexistence rules must allow Member States the right to prohibit completely the cultivation of GMOs in geographically restricted areas so as to safeguard coexistence.

13.   The European Parliament notes and regrets the Commission's decision(10) not to grant the request by the province of Upper Austria to ban the use of GMOs in this region.

14.   Particular attention should be paid to the cross-border coexistence of genetically modified crops and conventional and organic crops (between Member States and with third countries). The Commission is called upon to study all aspects of cross-border coexistence, and the Member States should adopt measures concerning the interaction and coexistence of genetically modified crops at a cross-border level, following consultations.

15.   The Commission is called on to present a proposal to supplement the rules on liability for environmental damage caused by GMOs, so as to complete the rules required for developments in modern biotechnology; the proposal should deal in particular with damage caused by the presence of GMOs in products the producers of which did not use such organisms.

16.   Calls on the Commission and Member States not to proceed with the approval of the release of any further genetically modified varieties of plant until such time as binding rules on coexistence, backed up by a system of liability based firmly on the 'polluter pays' principle, have been agreed and implemented.

17.   In order to guarantee economically viable coexistence, the limit value for labelling of seeds should be defined as the detectability threshold; a decision on these thresholds may not be taken by the Standing Committee on Seeds and Propagating Material of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry, which is acting as a management committee, but needs a legislative proposal to be presented to Parliament and Council on the basis of Articles 37, 100a and 152.