The EU is to take a deciphering vote next week on seed thresholds. With rules for growing gene crops and legislation on food and animal feed containing GMOs already in place, the Commission's standing on the subject is to become a lot clearer.
"The vote could be on Monday or Tuesday, it's difficult to say in advance. But if discussions are necessary, as it's a controversial area, it's possible that these would be on Monday and then a vote on Tuesday," a Commission official said.
Last month, the EU's seeds committee broke up after a fierce debate over proposals calling for organic and conventional rapeseed to have a 0.3 per cent GMO limit with 0.5 per cent for maize and 0.7 per cent for soybeans, with seeds below these thresholds not having to be labelled.
According to Reuters, the committee is due to meet on Monday with a draft agenda that includes the proposed GMO seed thresholds. If approved, the proposals would be forwarded to the World Trade Organisation for vetting by the EU's trade partners over a 60-day period. A final vote would then be taken in Brussels.
The issue however is being met with a lot of controversy as one of the last obstacles in the EU ending its unofficial five-year ban on biotech crops.
But the proposed thresholds hoped by the Commission to be implemented in Spring 2004 are still far too high for some GMO-sceptic countries such as Italy and Austria. These countries call for a tolerance of just 0.1 per cent in traditional crops with Italy pushing for zero per cent GMO presence.
Environment groups say high levels of GMOs in traditional crops would destroy non-biotech agriculture. The proposed seed thresholds would still permit a significant GMO presence in traditional crops, forcing consumers to eat GM food, they say.
The United States, Canada and Argentina, which are major growers of GM crops, have taken the EU to the WTO for refusing to authorise any new GM strains since 1998 pending tougher rules on safety testing and labelling.