13 October 2000

EU takes GM action

STOP-GAP measures to deal with cases where GM seed gets mixed in with conventional seed, as occurred with imported Canadian rapeseed earlier this year, have been approved by Brussels.

Under the agreement, member states have to test sugar beet, maize, rapeseed, soya bean, cotton and tomatoes "where a GM presence is suspected".

For material that does not yet have full EU approval, a zero tolerance level applies. But if the material is EU-approved, then up to 0.5% inclusion in conventional seed is acceptable.

These thresholds apply to both EU-produced and imported seeds.

The rules are designed to fill a vacuum in EU law, pending a review of existing seed marketing regulations. Proposals are expected from the commission in early November.

"This interim agreement was reached last July," said Garlich von Essen, director of the European Seed Associations in Brussels. "It has just taken this long to get it published. Several member states are already implementing the measures, though it is a complex process."

ESA has a number of reservations about the actions being taken. In particular, it is critical that there is still no single agreed sampling procedure.

Mr von Essen is also critical of the use of 0.5% as a threshold, which he says is a political figure. &#42