Experts from France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands met with environmental expert members of the GMO Environmental Risk Assessment Working Group of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)'s GM panel to share their experiences on the environmental risk assessments of specific GM applications for cultivation.
"We shared some very useful experiences in environmental risk assessment for the applications for cultivation of GM crops in Europe," said Dr Jeremy Sweet, vice-chair of the EFSA GMO panel and chair of the GMO environmental working group.
"Participants welcomed the initiative and agreed that common environmental risk assessment and data interpretation methodologies will assist all parties involved and further add to the consistency of environmental risk assessment."
In particular, they discussed the evaluation of data presented in the applications and the risk assessment of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant GM crops.
"EU GMO legislation provides a framework for co-operation between EFSA and member states in GMO environmental risk assessment," said EFSA in a statement.
"Within this framework, these four countries have volunteered to carry out the initial environmental risk assessments of GM plants, which will form the basis of the final environmental risk assessment of EFSA's GM panel."
During the meeting, participants discussed the evaluation of data presented in the applications and the risk assessment of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant GM crops. Member States also shared individual risk assessment experiences from specific GM applications.
"This will ultimately help the GMO panel in carrying out the final EU risk assessment and provide clear and transparent information for the public," said EFSA.
There has been growing pressure from the biotech sector to improve access to agricultural biotechnology.
Marc Van Montagu, president of the European Federation of Biotechnology, told journalists in Brussels last month that the technology has considerable benefits for Europe, despite what he described as "systematic attempts to deny European farmers the right to use a technology widely used in the rest of the world".
Montagu's comments follow the publication of new figures from The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
The new statistics show that in 2006 the number of hectares globally cultivated with GM crops increased by 12 million hectares. Most of this growth came from countries such as China and India, while most EU farmers "continue to be held back by a dysfunctional regulatory system and by disproportionate co-existence rules," according to Montagu.
An EFSA colloquium will be held in June 2007 on GMO environmental risk assessment involving environmental experts from across Europe, details of which will be announced during Spring 2007.