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Poland Close to Banning GMOs

Poland's upper house of parliament may ban trade and plantings of  genetically modified (GMO) seeds on Thursday and put Warsaw on a  collision course with Brussels for endorsing a law that breaks EU  rules.

The chairman of the Senate's agriculture committee said he expected  senators from the ruling conservative Law and Justice party and several  fringe groups to support the draft law, which has already been approved  by the lower house of parliament.

"Senators from Law and Justice will back the bill and I have not heard  any objections from several other parties, so it should pass," Jerzy  Chroscikowski told Reuters.

The legislation would still have to get final approval from lower house  deputies after the Senate vote. It also has to be signed by the  president to become law.

Poland's plans for what is effectively a national GMO ban have drawn  criticism from the European Commission, the EU executive, for  threatening to break EU laws, especially those that aim to preserve the  bloc's single internal market.

The Commission takes the view that if a region wants to ban GMO crops,  such a restriction has to be scientifically justified and crop-specific  -- not a blanket ban on all biotech seeds or crops.

"We might have to consider excluding an individual GM product from a  given area if, for scientific reasons, it genuinely could not co-exist  with non-GM crops in that area," said EU Agriculture Commissioner  Mariann Fischer Boel.  "But...we cannot simply ban all GM crops from an entire region because  of hostility to GM products per se. Where a product has been shown not  to be harmful, in principle the rules of the free internal EU market  apply," she told a conference in Vienna earlier this month.

The Commission's position was put to the test a few years ago by an  Austrian region whose proposed regional GMO ban was slapped down by  Brussels. The Court of First Instance, the EU's second highest court,  upheld the Commission's view last October.

Early last year Italy adopted a law imposing a ban on GMO crops until  all its regions had agreed laws on how farmers should separate biotech  crops from organic and traditional varieties. The Commission has  already warned of legal action.

No biotech seeds have been planted in Poland and the ruling  conservatives, who have long said they wanted to make Poland GMO-free,  fear that potential future sowings of genetically modified crops could  lead to contaminatation of other crops.

So-called coexistence laws -- or rules for separating biotech crops  from organic and traditional varieties -- have become the most  controversial area in the biotech debate across the EU.

Environmental groups in the bloc say no GMOs should be grown in Europe  until an EU-wide coexistence law is in place. The biotech industry sees  no problems in growing GMO crops next to non-GMO types.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski told Reuters this  month the government wanted to ban sowing of GMO plants to protect  Poland's image as an enviromentally friendly state and that it might  seek changes to the bloc's biotech policy.

 24th April 2006 Warsaw Business Journal  Senate sows seeds of GM ban  by Andrew Kureth

A ban on genetically modified seeds has passed the Senate.

Poland's upper house of parliament has passed a bill on banning  genetically modified (GM) seeds throughout the country, raising the  specter of yet another clash between Warsaw and Brussels.

The proposed ban has already drawn criticism from the European  Commission (EC) - the EU executive - for potentially breaking EU  regulations, specifically those ensuring a single market within the  Union. The EC holds the position that any country banning GM crops must  do so only when it is scientifically justified and crop-specific.

The bill passed by the Senate effectively represents a nation-wide  blanket ban on all GM crops. It still must be approved by Poland's  lower house, the Sejm, and signed by the President before it becomes  law.

The bill was pushed through by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) and  some smaller parties, who fear contamination of non-GM crops and want  to build Poland's image as an environmentally friendly country.

Last year the EU's second-highest court upheld the EC's position, after  Brussels blocked an attempt by Austria to create a GM-free zone. The EU  has also threatened legal action against Italy for a law passed last  year banning GM crops until all of its regions agree on regulations for  the technology.

So far, no GM seeds have been planted in Poland, and PiS members have  suggested that the government could look to change the bloc's policy on  GM crops. (Reuters)

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