Belgium: First firm regulation, only then can the moratorium be lifted

Belgium: First firm regulation,
only then can the moratorium
be lifted

Minister Aelvoet is satisfied with the Belgian position on the moratorium
on GMO's

First firm regulation, only then can the moratorium be lifted

Since 1998 there has been a de facto moratorium on the use of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union. Accordingly, all this
time no new marketing of GMOs has been authorised. The moratorium is
actively supported by France, Denmark, Greece, Austria and Luxembourg
which together have enough votes to block any requests for fresh
authorizations. For the first time, Belgium has clearly indicated that
there can be no question of lifting the moratorium until there are clear
regulations regarding traceability and labelling.

In recent months, the European Commission has vigorously defended the idea
of lifting the moratorium. Each year the moratorium costs the US biotech
industry a great deal of money and the United States is now threatening to
have sanctions imposed by the World Trade Organisation.

No unconditional lifting of the moratorium

In response to the Commission's initiatives, Belgium has decided that two
conditions will have to be met before any move can be made to lift the

· The Belgian government must undertake to transpose EU directive
2001/18/EC(1) into its national legislation;
· regulations concerning traceability (2) and labelling (3) will have to
be formally approved.

The government will discuss the issue once again in October 2002.

Positive sign

Minister Aelvoet sees this as a positive sign: "Belgium is focussing its
concerns on the environment and consumers". The directive will effectively
provide for a stricter and more detailed assessment of the risks involved.
The regulations will ensure that consumers in supermarkets can use
products' labels to check whether they contain GMOs and then, on the basis
of what they find, make a free and enlightened choice. What the minister
actually said was this: "In fact it is only logical to first provide a
good, coherent legislative framework and then take other measures. So we
are very happy that Belgium is sending out such a clear signal to the

The minister stressed that it would be intellectually dishonest to deny
that biotechnology has any potential. If we really intend to benefit from
it, we must have such a framework as well as stringent checks on its
application and we must bolster the research financed by the public which
offers a social value added.
(1) This directive governs the deliberate release into the environment of
genetically modified organisms. It was adopted in March 2001 and has to be
transposed into national legislation before October 2002.

(2) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the
Council concerning traceability and labelling of genetically modified
organisms and traceability of food and feed products produced from
genetically modified organisms and amending Directive 2001/18/EC

(3) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the
Council on genetically modified food and feed (COM(2001)425)

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