EFSA opens up to discuss future of GM in Europe

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety authority, European union

Europe's food safety authority is holding a high level meeting with
scientists this Wednesday to discuss the future development of
Genetically Modified (GM) food within the bloc.

Scientists from environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been invited to share views on scientific and procedural issues related to the authority's work and advice in this field.

Herman Koter, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)'s acting executive director, will chair the meeting.

The summit comes just days after a WTO ruling backed the US, Canada and Argentina in their efforts to open Europe up to genetically modified (GM) food.

In August 2003, the US, Canada and Argentina took the EU to the WTO for suspending approvals for biotech products, and for six member states national bans on EU-approved GMOs.

The WTO ruled earlier this month that any ban on GM imports contravened the rules of free trade.

Both the European biotechnology industry and the European Commission have welcomed the decision. "The industry continues to back a science-based regulatory system to ensure farmers have the choice to use sustainable techniques that best meet the needs of their farming operations,"​ said EuropaBio, the European association for biotech industries, in a statement.

But some anti-GM campaigners remain convinced that Europe does not want GM food. It is clear that Member States still need to be convinced that introducing genetically modified ingredients into food production is acceptable the Commission has asked EU members over ten times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product, but in the large majority of cases, there was no agreement or simple deadlock.

The meeting, which will be held in Parma, Italy, will therefore provide an opportunity for NGOs to express their concerns. Presentations will be given on topics related to the risk assessment of genetically modified food, including environmental aspects.

Equally, EFSA will use this opportunity to explain fundamental concepts of hazard characterisation and risk assessment.

The objective of the meeting is to consider if there are issues of a scientific or technical nature that the authority may wish to take into account in the further development of its work and operating procedures.

EFSA believes that the meeting illustrates the agencys willingness to dialogue with interested parties on scientific matters in line with EFSA's policy on openness and transparency. The authority says that it is committed to exchange and collaboration with all of its stakeholders, including those who may hold different views.

Related topics: Science

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