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The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"Seen as a defeat for the environmentalists"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
EU rejects strict GM food controls
GM crops in UK
GM companies said propsals would destroy industry
The European Parliament has rejected a European Union law amendment that would have made GM producers legally responsible for any damage caused by their products to public health or to the environment.

Instead, the parliament called on the European Commission to come up with a more general plan by the end of the year that would still include some liability rules.

The proposed changes had been under attack by Europe's biotech industry, which claims they would force the fledgling sector out of Europe.

The industry says the proposed legislation would have saddled companies with an intolerable financial and regulatory burden.
GM tomato
Polls show that Europeans are concerned about the safety of GM foods
Green MEPs and non-governmental organisations argued the measures were needed to protect public health.

They were disappointed by the outcome.

"The whole package is a present to the industry because it will do nothing to reduce public mistrust and will in fact increase the pressure for local initiatives to keep out GMOs [genetically modified organisms]," German MEP Hiltrut Breyer said.

The environmental campaigning organisation Greenpeace has also criticised the vote.

"It is a scandal that the parliament failed to put the financial responsibility where it belongs, on companies pushing these crops to market," the organisation's spokeswoman Ceri Lewis said.

Friends of the Earth said that Euro MPs had failed to give the environment the "tough protection" it needed.

"The biotech industry has been given permission to pollute our countryside, contaminate our food and gamble with our health without making them liable for the damage if things do go wrong," Friends of the Earth campaigns director Liana Stupples said.

Antibiotics

Another rejected controversial proposal would have banned the use of certain marker genes used in GM crops. These genes confer resistance to antibiotics.


The rejected proposals
Producers of genetically-modified organisms would have been legally responsible for any damage caused by their products to public health or the environment.
European Union governments would have been responsible to outlaw genetic transfer between GMO crops and other existing organisms.
Certain marker genes used to confer resistance to antibiotics would be banned.
Anti-GM campaigners fear that this antibiotic resistance could transfer to bacteria in cattle, potentially leading to untreatable "superbugs".

A third rejected amendment was aimed at preventing the accidental transfer of modified genes to other crops by cross pollination.

These amendments were not only opposed by the GM crop companies but also by the EU's member states and by the European Commission.

Public opinion polls show widespread concern among Europeans regarding the long-term safety of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

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