Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


GENETICALLY MODIFIED MAIZE (8635/05, 10785/05, 11834/05, 14423/05)

Letter from the Chairman to Lord Bach, Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum of 11 January which Sub-Committee D (Environment and Agriculture) considered at its meeting on 15 February. The Committee notes that this proposal may be debated in the March Agriculture Council. However, the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Europe remains controversial, and, given our continuing concerns over this issue, the Committee decided to continue to hold the proposal under scrutiny.

  The proposal is similar to a number of other proposals scrutinised by the Committee which aim to place GMOs on the EU market. In the majority of cases the Committee expressed concerns over the environmental implications of the proposals and decided to hold the proposals under scrutiny.

  The Committee continues to have a number of concerns regarding these proposals upon which we would be grateful to receive information from you. What regulatory impact assessment is made of proposals for consent to place GMOs on the EU market? What monitoring takes place of the environmental implications of GMOs placed on the market? We would also be pleased to receive an explanation of why it was agreed that Decisions for consent would be considered through the comitology procedure.

  Given the Committee's concern regarding these proposals we would be most grateful if you were able to meet with the Committee in person to discuss the policy and method of GMO consent. I hope you will agree that this would be an important opportunity to discuss the Government's stance on these proposals with the Committee and my office will be in touch with your department to arrange.

  We understand that the following proposals have been adopted by the Commission and the Committee therefore agreed to clear the proposals from scrutiny:
10785/05Proposal for a Council Decision concerning the placing on the market, in accordance with Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of a maize product (Zea mays L line 1507) genetically modified for resistance to certain lepidopteran pests and for tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium.

8635/05
Proposal for a Council Decision concerning the placing on the market, in accordance with Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of a maize product (Zea mays L line MON 863) genetically modified for resistance to corn rootworm.

14423/05
Proposal for a Council Decision concerning the placing on the market, in accordance with Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of a maize product (Zea mays L line hybrid MON 863 X MON 810) genetically modified for resistance to corn rootworm and certain lepidopteran pests of maize.

11834/05
Proposal for a Council Decision concerning the provisional prohibition in Greece of the marketing of seeds of maize hybrids with the genetic modification MON 810 inscribed in the common catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species, pursuant to Directive 2002/53/EC.

16 February 2006


Letter from Elliot Morley MP, Minister of State for Climate Change and Environment, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 16 February addressed to Lord Bach headed "GM Maize" but also referring to the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum of 11 January regarding a proposal to approve the placing on the market of a GM oilseed rape product (Ms8, Rf3 and MS8 x RF3) which your Committee considered at its meeting on 15 February. The heading on your letter referred to an earlier proposal for GM maize line 1507.

  I am responding as the minister with responsibility for genetic modification issues. I shall be happy to meet with your Committee to discuss the policy and method of GMO consent and look forward to receiving details in due course. In the meantime I will answer the questions you raised.

  With regard to your first question, Regulatory Impact Assessments are not required for individual approvals of GM products. This situation is not specific to GM products, the same applies to the approval of other products, such as medicines and pesticides. A Regulatory Impact Assessment was completed in 2002 on the implementation of Directive 2001/18/EC. A copy of this document can be found on the Defra website at:

  http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/eu/pdf/implement_ria.pdf

  A further Regulatory impact Assessment was completed before the new GM food and feed and traceability and labelling regulations came into force in 2004. A copy of this document can be found on the Food Standards Agency website at:

  http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/gmria.pdf

  In your second question you ask what monitoring takes place of the environmental implications of GMOs placed on the market. All applicants are required to supply a post-market monitoring plan setting out how the proposed release will be monitored for effects on the environment. There are two main objectives of the monitoring plan. The first is to confirm that any assumption regarding the occurrence and impact of potential adverse effects of the GMO or its use in the environmental risk assessments (also a requirement) are correct. The second is to identify the occurrences of adverse effects of the GMO or its use on human health or the environment which were not anticipated in the environmental risk assessment. Directive 2001/18/EC outlines the general principles and design of the monitoring plans the applicant should provide but all post market monitoring plans will be tailored to the particular GMO under consideration. The plan should include general monitoring and case specific monitoring when applicable. Any consent issued for the placing on the market of a GMO will include the specific monitoring requirements and obligations to report to the Commission and the Member State Competent Authorities. Following the placing on the market the applicant must ensure that monitoring and reporting on it are carried out according to the conditions specified. If any risks to human health or the environment are identified as a result of the monitoring, the applicant is required to notify the Competent Authority. Safeguard action can be taken by Member States to prohibit any further use of the product until the Commission and Member states have assessed the new information and decided to amend or terminate its use.

  Finally, you asked why it was agreed that Decisions for consent would be considered through the comitology procedures. Decisions about which GMOs can be consumed or grown in the EU as a whole have been taken by Member States collectively under a regime of safety testing, monitoring and control which dates back to 1990. Member States recently agreed to strengthen this legal framework. Member States and the European Parliament have agreed that where the Council is unable to reach a final decision on a product by Qualified Majority, the Commission will take the decision on its behalf, in line with scientific advice. This is a procedure which is in force in many other policy areas, not just in the area of GMOs. We think it is the best way of resolving cases where Ministers are unable to reach a conclusion on a particular dossier.

27 March 2006



 
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