16 July 2003 17:50 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--The European Commission (EC) has filed law suits against eleven member countries for failing to lift a moratorium against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and bring their own legislation into line with that of European Union (EU) rules.
The eleven countries facing the suits are: France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Austria and Finland.
The suits were filed at the European Court of Justice after the 17 October 2002 deadline had passed and two subsequent written warnings issued to the member states.
A spokeswoman for the EC told CNI Wednesday any "so called moratorium" should have ended in October last year when a new directive, which revised the original framework for regulating the release of GMOs, came into force. The directive improved strictness and transparency to create a more effective and efficient authorisation procedure, according the EC.
In July, the directive is being supplemented by an EU vote to require that all food products derived from GM crops be labelled as GM-derived.
The Commission said was trying to "ensure a safe, step-by-step" approach to releasing GMOs into the environment. It has some 20 approval requests in the pipeline for GM plants and expects to have an answer on these by the end of 2003, according to the spokeswoman.
Announcing the suits, the Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, said that EU legislation "provides a solid answer to public concerns about the environmental and health effects of GMOs but our credibility will be severely undermined if we are not able to demonstrate that we can implement it".
The spokeswomen said the EC’s latest action was of relevance to current talks between the US and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over Europe’s resistance to importing GMOs. It will be taken into account when the WTO decides whether the EU has a case to answer, she said. US trade officials have charged that import restriction from the EU amount to an illegal trade barrier under WTO rules.
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