25 November 1999
EU commissioner urges GM policy switch

MARGOT WALLSTRON, European Union environment commissioner, began an initiative yesterday to shift the EUs position on genetically modified (GM) products.

Ms Wallstrom warned that the EU would face court action unless it ended its de facto moratorium on licensing GM products

She set out a plan which is less likely to disturb trade relations with the USA, arguing the case for a definition of the EUs “precautionary principle” less prohibitive towards these products.

This would involve biotechnology companies accepting tougher licensing conditions on labelling and traceability, which are planned by the EU but not expected to come into legal effect for several years.

Ms Wallstroms initiative comes against a background where EU foot-dragging on the issue appeared certain to lead to trade friction with the USA.

The EU has licensed no new GM foods since April last year and the 18 authorisations approved before then amount to less than one-third of the total authorised by the USA.

There are also fears that a block on licensing would leave the EU open to a legal challenge from biotechnology companies.