GM ingredients approved for Europe, action on UTPs & Plastic Alliance formed: A round-up of EU news and views

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages
© GettyImages
The Commission has approved two genetically modified ingredients for Europe; an agreement has been reached on unfair trading practices (UTPs) but not everyone is happy; and stakeholders have created a Plastic Alliance to stimulate market innovation. This is our round-up of news and views from Brussels.

EU approves two GM ingredients

The Commission authorised two genetically modified organisms (GMOs), both for food and feed uses in Europe.

The maize ingredients are called MON 87427 × MON 89034 × 1507 × MON 88017 × 59122 and MON 87427, MON 89034, 1507, MON 88017 and 59122.

It also renewed the authorisation of the maize NK603 x MON 810 for food and feed.

All the crops have been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The Commission said: “All Member States had the right to express their view in the Standing Committee and subsequently the Appeal Committee, and the outcome is that the European Commission has the legal backing of the Member States to proceed with the authorisation.”

The authorisations are valid for 10 years and do not cover cultivation.

Under EU labelling regulations, any food products that contain more than 0.9% of GM ingredients must clearly state on-pack that they are made with genetically modified ingredients. 

Trilogue agreement on UTPs

The Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission reached an agreement on the final text of the Directive on unfair trading practices ​(UTPs) at a last-minute trilogue meeting held yesterday (19 December).

Organic trade association IFOAM EU welcomed the text. Its president Jan Plagge said: “a minimum harmonized standard at EU level was needed on the issue of unfair trading​ practices”, adding that he hoped  “adequate collaboration between member states competent authorities will make sure that this directive is adequately enforced”.

The text now includes a review clause, something IFOAM also welcomed. “It will be important that the Commission carries out an evaluation that should focus particularly on whether the situation for the most vulnerable actors has improved since the entry into force of this directive and on whether Member States’ collaboration is effective, prior to proposing an improved legislative text, if necessary,” ​the trade group said.

Retailers and wholesalers reacted negatively, however, saying the directive would create new administrative burdens and legal uncertainty for them, shifting the balance of power to food manufacturers.

EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said: “The amendments agreed today are claimed to be protecting the weak against the strong. This is frankly disingenuous. It skews the market yet further in favour of national brands who already have considerable power.”

EuroCommerce said that, while it still needed to study the final text closely, the addition of 8 further prohibitions – bringing the total up to 16 – was “an unprecedented intervention in the free market”.

“It gives additional power to manufacturers and no rights to retailers or wholesalers. This is an odd interpretation of fairness,” ​it added.

Plastic Alliance formed

The European Commission has created an alliance of key industry stakeholders in order to reduce the environmental impact of plastic pollution and stimulate market innovation.

It described the Circular Plastics Alliance as a high-level, multi-stakeholder platform gathering key industry stakeholders covering the full plastics value chain from waste collectors to recyclers and primary producers to converters, brand owners and retailers.

At the launch of the Circular Plastics Alliance, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: "Business understands this is an opportunity to innovate and to become global frontrunners in new technology and materials, in line with circular economy logic.

“The platform that we are setting up today will encourage cooperation and dialogue between market operators, both on the supply and the demand side, so that we can together build a well-functioning market for recycled plastics."

Yesterday (19 December), the EU's legislative proposal on single-use plastic moved one step closer to entering into force​ after receiving the backing of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. 

Towards a trans fat ban

Member states backed the Commission’s proposal to set a maximum limit on the use of industrially produced trans-fats in foods in the EU.

The vote, held during a standing committee meeting, means the text can now go to the Parliament for examination.

Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, in charge of Health and Food Safety, welcomed the outcome of the vote, saying he hoped to see the regulation adopted by spring 2019.

 "[…] The increasingly high intake of trans fats has been a great concern for doctors, such as myself, for many years, and numerous scientific studies have shown that something had to be done about it.

“Today's favourable vote is a step forward since it will lead to concrete actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats, for the benefits of the EU citizens.”

The regulation sets a maximum limit of 2 g of trans fats per 100 g of fat in the food intended for the final consumer.

German wine

Germany has had protected status added to four of its wines: Monzinger Niederberg, Uhlen Blaufüsser Lay, Uhlen Laubach et Uhlen Roth Lay.

The first is made with grapes cultivated around the town of Monzingen, in the west of Germany. Uhlen Blaufüsser Lay, Uhlen Laubach et Uhlen Roth Lay are all sparkling white wines made in the wine-producing region of Winningen, near Koblenz.

These additions bring the number of protected European wines to over 1,300. 

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