EuropaBio, web dated March 7, 2007, http://www.greenbiotech-manifesto.org/screen-manifesto-900.pdf
"Biotech industry leaders publish Green Biotech Manifesto and set out policy challenges," March 13, 2007, http://www.europabio.org/ne_Greenmanifesto130307.htm
The European Commission and the Member States have put in place the world's most stringent regulatory system for the assessment, the approval and monitoring of agricultural biotech products of which the main features are:
- the safety assessment of biotech crops is carried out by an independent European authority, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and is a continuous process which remains in place even after the authorisation of a product, through careful monitoring and the requirement to renew the approval of a biotech product every ten years;
- the tracing and labelling of biotech crop-derived ingredients is required throughout the food chain for maximum transparency towards consumers thus guaranteeing freedom of choice;
- a set of European level recommendations (known as coexistence guidelines) on how to cultivate biotech crops alongside conventional and organic crops to ensure no discrimination against any type of agriculture;
- Member States competent authorities are fully involved in the safety assessment of biotech crops.
- Notwithstanding the above, the authorisation for the cultivation and use of agricultural biotech products is facing a number of substantial hindrances.
- These hindrances are setting the sector back in Europe with respect to the rest of the world and are impeding the contribution of agricultural biotech to Europe's Lisbon goals.
- This Manifesto aims to present the practical hindrances in the five main areas in need of urgent attention and action, as well as suggested solutions.
- As a matter of priority, the EFSA GMO Panel should focus its capacity on applications for product approvals, and deliver opinions in timeframes consistent with those prescribed in the regulations. Ad hoc self-tasking activities should be reduced until the backlog of applications is removed. Additional resources should be provided to EFSA to manage the increasing number of applications.
- The European Commission should propose draft approval decisions to Member States according to their regulatory obligations with respect to legally binding timelines.
- Member States should act in a manner consistent with their EU and International obligations, and demonstrate confidence in the regulatory process they established by making decisions on the basis of EFSA's scientific opinions.
- The European Commission should ensure that, for biotech products authorized in the EU, Member States do not restrict farmers' access to such products through the use of arbitrary and illegal bans or through the adoption of discriminatory national or local coexistence rules.
Europe must move forward
In order for agricultural biotechnology to contribute actively to Europe meeting the Lisbon goals, European political leaders and the European Commission should review their biotechnology and life sciences policies to ensure that they:
- Honour commitments aimed at achieving political and economic objectives.
- Fulfil their legal obligations and properly implement Community legislation.
- Encourage EFSA to deliver safety opinions on biotech products within the times prescribed in the Community legislation.
- Propose draft decisions for placing on the market of biotech products in a timely manner as required by the Community legislation.
- Establish pragmatic labelling thresholds for adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of biotech seeds in seed lots.
- Establish pragmatic approach to manage the presence of low levels of biotech products and derived biotech material in traded commodities.
- Enhance the co-ordination with Member States as far as co-existence is concerned.
- Listen to, and more vocally support, European farmers to realize the economic and environmental advantages of green biotechnology.
- Nurture and promote coherent pro-growth and pro-development policies that do not discriminate against this promising technology.
- Better contribute toward educating citizens about the technology, its safety, its advantages and the regulatory framework.
EuropaBio is the political voice of the biotechnology industry in Europe. Our association of bioindustries has some 70 corporate members operating worldwide, 11 associates, 5 regions and 25 national biotechnology associations, representing 1500 small and medium sized biotech companies in Europe.