23 November 1999
New commissioner seeks GM deal

MARGOT WALLSTROM, the European Unions newly installed environment commissioner, is urging an end to an 18-month informal moratorium by the EU on licensing genetically modified (GM) products.

She is prepared to ask environment ministers to authorise products approved by scientists if companies accept tougher licensing conditions, planned by the EU but unlikely to come into legal effect for several years.

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

Wallstrom said she was looking for a broad consensus on GM products and would not attempt to push for decisions over the heads of member states.

The conditions she wants companies to accept involve toughening the requirements for tracing and labelling products.