BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 20, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- Reuters, 07/18/03:
The European Commission will say next week that public
authorities cannot ban farmers from planting genetically
modified crops, supporting those farmers who want to
embrace the controversial technology.
The EU executive will agree guidelines on Wednesday
on how GMO crops can be grown along with organic and
conventional crops, part of a push to lift the five-year
moratorium on GMO crops that is under attack from the
"A group of farmers in a region can club together
and decide not to grow GMO crops but a regional or national
government cannot create a GMO-free zone," said
an EU official on Friday, adding that the freedom of
farmers to choose is enshrined in EU law.
The provincial government of upper Austria has banned
genetically modified organisms but the European Food
Safety Authority recently said there was no justification.
The Commission will take the final decision on the
Austrian case in September.
The co-existence debate is seen by many in the biotech
industry as another way for GMO-sceptical countries
to postpone lifting the five-year ban on most GMO crops.
It follows the adoption in principal of rules to label
all GMO food and feed earlier this month, giving consumers
the choice between GM and non-GMO products on supermarket
But growing GMO crops in Europe still provides a number
of headaches. Who should pay if genetic material is
found in organic and conventional crops -- the farmer
or seed producer?
Green groups and a number of member states want binding
EU legislation where the biotech industry would foot
the bill, paying for such 'contamination'.
But the EU executive says that is up to national authorities.
EU farm ministers will discuss the Commission's guidelines
"The Commission says that member states should
check whether some liability laws need to be changed
or updated and also look at insurance policies,"
said an EU official.
Meanwhile, the Piedmont regional government in Italy
recently ordered the destruction of 381 hectares of
maize fields thought to contain genetic material.
It is not clear yet who will pay the cost.