Impact of the Lepage Mission Reports

Wednesday 10 December 2008
What conclusions on the reflections on the evolution of the regulations on GMOs? By Anne Furet of Inf'OGM

The Ministers are laying stress on the importance of the mandate given to EFSA (the EU assessment body in charge of the assessment of GMOs) by the European Commission to go over again its guide lines for the assessment of GMPs (Genetically Modified Plants). This review started in March 2008 and will be completed by March 2010, as provisioned in the mandate of the Commission and encouraged by the Ministers, it will integrate the environmental effects in the long term the specificity of GMPs which either produce an insecticide or which are herbicide-tolerant, to conform with the annexes of Directive 2001/18 and to give it a normative form.

As far as taking into account socio-economic factors is concerned (at present lacking in the assessment and decision making process), the approach is somehow shy and no decision was taken. For example “legitimate factors” were mentioned – a notion that was provisioned in Regulation No 1829/2003 -, the Commission and the Member States will define the socio-economic criteria that need to be integrated and see how they can be taken into account. The overcautiousness of the decision can be explained by the will of the Council to be in conformity with the WTO agreements and thus not to postpone the authorization deadlines. 

As far as the labelling of seeds is concerned, another point on the agenda of the French Presidency of the European Union, the Member States are reasserting their will that the Commission implements “appropriate” labelling thresholds, “as soon as possible”. At present and within a strict application of the legislation, any batch of seeds contaminated by GMOs, whether authorised or not, should be hauled back to the exporting country. 

On the protection of sensitive or protected territories, the report underlines that it is necessary to take into account the ecosystems and specific geographical areas “that present a high value in terms of biodiversity and specific agricultural practices” and  emphasizes the possibility of restraining or conditioning the growing of GMOs in Natura 2000 areas. Note that these areas only represent 9.6 % of the total cultivated area in France. The report also specifies that Regions with special agronomic or environmental characteristics, such as small isolated islands, may individually implement a specific approach,  take restriction measures and go as far as banning GMP crops.

The question now posed is how will the measures validated be put into practice and how the Czech Presidency of the European Union will continue the work, given the large number of points that remain unclear.