GM rules set to change

24 June 1999

GM rules set to change

EUROPEAN Union ministers are discussing improvements to the “absurdly cumbersome” regulations governing genetically modified (GM) food,” reports the Financial Times.

Foreign ministers from the 15 EU countries have already approved measures this week to remedy some of the problems.

They have agreed to change rules that at present allow the Commission to steer through GM approvals even when they are supported by just one member state.

The new rules will make it possible to block Commission approvals, provided a qualified majority of countries are opposed.

Some of the measures to be considered by environment ministers may also speed GM approvals.

Ministers are likely to approve clear timetables for authorising or rejecting products, and may introduce “fast-track” approval systems for some.

Some member states want the EU also to take ethical issues into account, while others want to retain time limits restricting product approvals to a specified period.

Meanwhile, France is seeking a blanket suspension of the sale of all genetically modified products, reports the The Daily Telegraph.

It wants time for further scientific testing and to allay growing public fears about safety in the food chain.

The French government outlined its new more conservative position on GM products this week.

Strict new guidelines have been adopted which include a fresh investigation by the newly created food safety council into the risks of eating GM food.

The government has declined to revoke the existing authorisation extended to GM maize.

Jean Glavany, the French agriculture minister, said the cabinet had chosen to maintain Frances own position on GM crops.

This means that some strains of GM maize can still be sown but GM rapeseed remains banned.

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