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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The British Government backs the new system"
 real 56k

David Bowe MEP
"These are the toughest GM laws in the world"
 real 56k

The BBC's Tom Feilden
talks to Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth
 real 28k

Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 12:08 GMT
Europe approves new GM rules
Greenpeace protesting near Verdes, France
There has been an anti-GM backlash across Europe
The European Parliament has approved proposals to tighten restrictions on the use of genetically modified (GM) products.

The new measures include the strict labelling and monitoring of GM foods, feeds, seeds and pharmaceuticals.


We are cutting through red tape because industry cannot wait forever

David Bowe MEP
They also set up a public registry, which will allow consumers to trace products.

The move paves the way for the EU to lift its three-year moratorium on licensing new GM products.

But environmentalists are opposed to granting GM licences because they say modified crops could spawn "superweeds" or damage human health.

Their arguments have not been scientifically proven, but neither has the opposite claim that GM crops are safe.

Safety fears

The new rules will now have to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers - a process expected to take around 18 months.

Since 1999, new varieties of GM crops have been subject to the de facto ban because of safety fears and public resistance to eating GM foods.

PA Anti-GM crop protester
European consumers are concerned by possible health risks from GM
There have been high-profile protests against GM crops across Europe, particularly in France and the UK.

But British MEP David Bowe, who proposed the legislation, said the vote was necessary if Europe was to hold its own in biotechnology.

"This is a unique agreement. We are cutting through red tape because industry cannot wait forever. We must keep Europe in the fast lane on biotechnology," he said.

"With this vote consumers can have confidence that GM products licensed for sale in the EU have met the toughest standards in the world."

France is pushing for further rules to make sure that GM plants can be identified at all stages of their production and consumption.

The UK Government supports the new measures but says no commercial GM crops will be planted in the UK until the results of the current trials have been studied.

Risk assessment

The new deal would allow licences to be granted, but only if firms provide a risk assessment and carry out continuous monitoring of any possible dangers.

Permission would lapse after a certain period.

More than a dozen licences had been granted before the moratorium came into effect, including four from the US biotech giant Monsanto.

A wave of new applications is now expected from Monsanto and others.

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
France's GM veto ruled wrong
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
Friend or foe?
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
Genetically-modified Q&A
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
Perils of far-flung pollen
18 May 99 | Food under the microscope
GM food: Head to head
18 May 99 | Food under the microscope
Special report: Food under the microscope
06 Apr 99 | Food under the microscope
The power of genes
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