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Half a century of undue delays in the EU approval of GM products








3 June 2013

Non-compliance and potential for efficiency gains recognised

The Commission admitted on the record that it regularly fails to comply with legal timelines when it comes to GM authorisations. In fact, by adding up all the days respective votes on product authorizations are overdue, one now reaches at least 51 years (see attached document for breakdown). The Commission’s website states that “the authorization system could be more efficient”. More than 15 months, or about one third of the overall time to authorisation, is spent after completion of the risk assessment. This is where the undue delays regularly occur. The WTO ruled that the EU authorization “procedure had not been completed without undue delay”, and that “the European Communities had, therefore, acted inconsistently with Annex C(1)(a) and, by implication, Art. 8.”

Biotech applications are already in our every-day lives

The EU continues to be the world’s biggest importer of agricultural commodities. A substantial and increasing part of these is based on GM crops. Today, GM varieties are the standard for soya and cotton. Most European farm animals get most of their proteins from imported GM soybeans, because these GM varieties are what farmers in the Americas decide to grow. Major retailers in the UK have now ended their GM free chicken feed policies. Biotechnology applications have long arrived in our daily lives in medicines such as insulin, and in industrial applications such as enzymes which make washing powders more efficient at lower temperatures, but also in food additives and vitamins produced with GM micro-organisms.

No signs of improvement

As evidenced in a recent EuropaBio report entitled “failures of the EU authorization system for GMOs”, the EU’s GM authorization timelines did not change, less products were approved in 2012 than in previous years, and the huge backlog of products continues to grow. The number of applications in the authorization system continues to be much higher than the number of products approved in the system’s entire history. A Commission spokesperson and other high ranking Commission officials have recently made statements that the EU will not speed up its authorization system. In an interview given to Inside US Trade, Frederic Vincent, spokesman forHealth and Consumer Policy, said: “Let’s put it bluntly: In the EU, we take more time to approve a [GMO]. And that’s it” (Inside US Trade, April 4, 2013).

Delays not a matter of safety

These delays are not a matter of safety – after all, the crops listed in the attached document have already undergone risk assessment in the EU, and most of them have been approved in a number of third countries which follow similarly rigorous safety assessments. The number of individual GMO product authorisations by various governments across the world is around 2500. The EU’s Joint Research Centre and many other world renowned public institutions have again and again confirmed that GMOs are not more risky than conventional crops. For more information, please consult the EuropaBio factsheet on product safety.

Please find attached the June edition of the EuropaBio document: Half a century of undue delays in the EU approval of GM products

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