More interesting was the release by Germany's agriculture ministry of a recent letter from minister Renate Künast to the Commission signalling a shift in the country's policy toward overt support for the ban. In the letter Ms Künast dismissed the Commission's plan as "incomprehensible and groundless". (from item 1)
At the September 28 meeting, the NGOs said they 'no longer trusted the Public Debate on Food and Genes' as the commission's brief is called. (from item 2)
1. Commission in trouble over EU's GMO ban
2. NGOS CLASH WITH COMMISSION
1. Commission in trouble over EU's GMO ban
Environment Daily 1083, 17/10/01
The European Commission yesterday held preliminary talks with EU member states to promote a lifting of the bloc's moratorium on licensing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) such as crops and foods. Several states reiterated their opposition to the move; significantly, it now looks as if Germany might be about to join the antis' camp. Under the Commission's plan, the EU would restart commercial licensing before draft rules on GM product traceability and labelling take effect around 2003, based on immediate voluntary implementation by industry. During the meeting, it presented a working paper outlining these proposals. Several member states reiterated their opposition to any early end to the moratorium.
More interesting was the release by Germany's agriculture ministry of a recent letter from minister Renate Künast to the Commission signalling a shift in the country's policy toward overt support for the ban. In the letter Ms Künast dismissed the Commission's plan as "incomprehensible and groundless".
Four of the six member states who in February opposed an early end to the moratorium restated this position yesterday, a source told Environment Daily. These were Denmark, France, Greece and Austria. Italy's current position is unclear while the sixth country in the group, Luxembourg, did not attend the meeting (ED 16/02/01 http://www.environmentdaily.com/articles/index.cfm?action=a-article&ref=933 1)
A spokesperson for the Commission's health consumer protection directorate told Environment Daily that the meeting had been limited to "technical issues," and had not aimed to seek political agreement. But environmental group Friends of the Earth saw the outcome as proving continued backing for the ban. The Commission's plan is "impossible to sell," Gill Lacroix of Friends of the Earth Europe told Environment Daily.
Follow-up: European Commission http://europa.eu.int/comm, tel: +32 2 299 1111;
German agriculture ministry http://www.verbraucherministerium.de/, tel: +49 30 20060,
Ms Künast's letter
FoE Europe http://www.foeeurope.org/, tel: +32 2 542 0180, press release http://www.foeeurope.org/press/GL_16.10.01_moratorium.ht
2. NGOS CLASH WITH AID MINISTER OVER GM FOODS
Het Financieele Dagblad (English); October 18, 2001
AMSTERDAM - Development aid minister Eveline Herfkens has poured fuel on the fire of the genetically manipulated (GM) food debate by reiterating her view that the West may be hindering developing nations by worrying too much about the safety of GM crops. A group of eight non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said yesterday it was 'outraged' by the comments, made during a speech on World Food Day on Tuesday. The get-together celebrated the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations' food and agriculture organisation FAO.
The minister was being 'one-sided and optimistic about the advantages of GM crops for developing nations,' the group said. The development aid ministry was, the group added, 'choosing to simply ignore criticism from developing countries' of the possible damaging effects of GM crops. 'We do not get anywhere by treating biotechnology as a dangerous game played by multinationals who want to tighten their grip on the food chain,' Herfkens said in her speech.
A ministry spokeswoman yesterday brushed aside the criticism. 'The NGOs have zoomed in on one small part of the speech. The minister does not see GM methods and biotechnology as only beneficial,' she said. 'But we must look at all the possibilities to help developing countries with their food problems,' she added. The spokeswoman said the ministry was keen to hear from representatives of developing countries on the subject of GM crops. The group of NGOs - which included environmental lobby groups Greenpeace and Milieudefensie plus religious groups Kerken in Aktie and ICCO - claim that the Dutch government's subsidies for research into GM crops vastly exceeds that provided to organic agricultural research. The GM foods debate in Holland heated up last month when 15 NGOs (including the eight involved in this latest skirmish) walked out of talks with the government's Terlouw commission.
At the September 28 meeting, the NGOs said they 'no longer trusted the Public Debate on Food and Genes' as the commission's brief is called. Chaired by social democrat D66 senator Jan Terlouw, the commission is responsible for stimulating and monitoring public debate in the Netherlands on genetic manipulation. It was officially launched in March this year. Instead, the 15 NGOs are organising their own splinter conference entitled 'The Other Side of Gene Technology' to be held in The Hague on October 29. They will use the session to present their own interpretation of aspects of gene technology.