MEPs question absence of new novel food and cloning proposals

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Novel foods European union

MEPs seek clear timetable on novel foods plan
MEPs seek clear timetable on novel foods plan
MEPs are pressing the Commission for action on new novel food and cloning proposals, which the EU regulator had undertaken to deliver by December 2011.

Jo Leinen, chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, wrote to Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner John Dalli last week with a view to​obtaining a clear timeline for the adoption of proposals for a Novel Food Regulation and on animal cloning.

A Brussels source told that the MEPs have yet to receive an official response.

Sense of urgency

Commissioner Dalli, participating in a debate at the Parliament’s ENVI committee in April, assured MEPs then that there was a “sense of urgency” ​about how to move forward, and he pledged to bring forward a new legislative proposal on novel foods by the end of this year.

But, EC health and consumer policy spokesperson, Frédéric Vincent,​ was unable yesterday to give any clearer indication as to when the new proposals would be finalised. He told this publication that the Commission was “working on it”, ​noting that the Commission is “fully aware”​ of MEPs’ concerns and requests.

Cloning impasse

An impasse between the EU council and the Parliament over food from cloned animals and their offspring led to the spectacular failure of conciliation talks on the revised legislation on novel foods in March this year, meaning that three years of discussions over ways to make the novel foods procedure simpler and faster had to be discarded.

The matter of cloning, meanwhile, was not intended to play centre stage in the package, but it was included as it had no natural home in any other existing legislation.

The divide over novel foods came about as the European Parliament argued that produce from clones and off-spring should not enter the food chain without full traceability. However food from animals with a clone somewhere in the family tree are not barred in other markets, and the Council pointed out that demanding traceability that cannot be delivered means blocking imports – and risking sanctions from trading partners like the US.

The disagreement has caused great dismay for the food industry, as the existing novel foods rules, drawn up in 1997, are lengthy and burdensome; they lead many companies look to introduce innovations to easier markets in preference to the EU.

Question remains over cloning inclusion

In April, Commissioner Dalli confirmed that produce from cloned animals and their off-spring will be removed from the new novel foods proposal and place in a separate legislative proposal of its own.

However, yesterday, Vincent told that uncertainty remained over whether the Commission was going to propose a single regulation or two - one on novel foods and a separate one on cloning.

He remarked that it is likely that the Novel Foods legislation would not be implemented until 2014, stressing that it takes, on average, between 18 months and 2 years for new regulation to be adopted by the EP and the Council.

“But that's a speculative calculation; political agreement could speed things up,”​ added the Commission spokesperson.

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