29 August 1997

GMO approval plans attacked

EU proposals to streamline the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) approvals procedure have been attacked by campaign groups and the biotech industry.

The new draft guidelines aim to accelerate the process for clearing new products for sale by dividing new releases into separate categories. Biotech organisation, EuropaBio, argues that it takes on average two years to gain product approval in the EU compared with a year in the US and just eight months in Japan.

The new guidelines aim to place GMO releases where there is already sufficient scientific understanding of their effects on a fast track.

Companies will only have to notify the authority in the member state of the planned release and supply a technical dossier with an assessment of human health and environmental risk.

But Gavin Cree, chairman of the Bioindustry Associations regulatory affairs advisory committee, said the criteria over which releases would be placed in the fast track category were not clear: "Almost by definition the initial product of a GMO may not be able to get into the first category because naturally there is no experience of its release."

Pete Riley, Friends of the Earth biotechnology adviser, said the move would prevent anti-GMO member states, such as Austria and Sweden, from obtaining information and objecting to releases. "This is a political rather than a scientific measure."