Europe this week 28 October 2011
European Commission - ETW/11/2810 28/10/2011
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Table of content:
Offshore oil and gas operations
The evaluations conclude that there is an expected increase in the number of countries growing GM crops, as well as increases in the type of GM crops in the EU.
The developments are likely to result in an increasing number of applications for authorisation in the EU, which could lead to low level presence of unauthorised GMOs in imported products (feeds, food and seeds). The Commission is addressing this problem through a step-by-step approach, tackling the affected sectors in order of priority. An EU law addressing low level presence of unauthorised GMOs entered into force on 15 July 2011.
As a matter of fact
The availability of GM-labelled food products in the EU is extremely limited:
There are two GMOs that are commercially cultivated in the EU:
GMOs are authorised at EU level on a case-by case basis on the basis of the particular uses defined by the application of the company, after a positive assessment of health and environmental risks. There are 43 GMOs authorised in the EU for food and feed uses, including one sugar beet, three soybean, three oilseed-rape, six cotton and 17 maize products. They can be found in the EU Register for GM food and feed: http://ec.europa.food/dyna/gm_register/index_en.cfm
The vast majority of compound feed (85-90%) is labelled as GM and up to 95% of soybean imports. These figures have been on the rise as planting of GM events increases.
There is a relatively small niche market of non-GM feed for the "organic" segment and non-GM supply chains.
Eight EU countries have experience in GMO cultivation:
In the Czech Republic, Portugal, Romania and Spain Bt maize is cultivated in regions with high levels of corn-borer infestation.
HT soybean generated higher average yields increases in Romania, until 2007.
HT crops are usually cultivated by larger farmers and not by smallholders. There is little or no yield difference between HT or –conventional soybean (with exceptions such as situations where conventional weed control was very inefficient, i.e. conventional soybean in Romania).
Overall, HT technology reduces production cost but the premium price for HT seeds may result in small or no effects on economic gross margin for farmers, according to studies in the USA and Canada. In these cases, the rapid adoption by farmers is not associated with effects on farm income but with improved weed control, crop management simplification, facilitation of no-tillage practices and improvement of farmers' off-farm income due to time savings.
Apart from economic impact on farming, facts and statistics pertinent to the European Union context are missing. For the time being, the present and future socio-economic impacts of GMO cultivation in Europe, across the food chain and the society as a whole, are often not analysed in an objective manner.
Seven Member States (Austria, Hungary, France, Greece, Germany Bulgaria and Luxembourg) adopted safeguard measures and prohibited the cultivation of the GM maize MON810 on their territories.
Moreover, Austria, Luxembourg and Hungary have notified to the Commission the prohibition of the cultivation of the "Amflora" potato. Poland has legislation in place forbidding the marketing of all GM seeds.
1988: European Commission publishes proposals for two EU law (directives), one on the contained use of genetically modified microorganisms and the other on the deliberate release to the environment of GMOs.
1990: the two laws proposed by the Commission are adopted by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.
1998: cultivation of GM maize MON810 is authorized in the EU.
2001: directive 01/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs repealing the 1990 directive, is adopted by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. It outlines the principles for, and regulates, experimental releases and the placing on the market of GMOs in the EU, for uses other than food or feed.
2003: entry into force of Regulations 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed, 1830/2003 concerning the traceability and labelling of GMOs and the traceability of food and feed products produced from genetically modified organisms and 1946/2003 on transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms.
2010: GM starch potato is authorised for cultivation and industrial processing.
2011: EU law on low level presence of unauthorised GMOs in imported products (Regulation 619/2011) enters into force.
There is a full package of ongoing Commission initiatives to address key areas such as:
Before the end of 2011, the Commission will launch a study to take stock of existing GMO-free labelling systems and assess the need for harmonisation in this field.
As a matter of fact
For damage to waters, the present EU legal framework for environmental liability is restricted to territorial waters (about 22 km offshore). With the Commission proposal, the geographical zone will be extended to cover all EU marine waters, including the exclusive economic zone (up to about 370 km from the coast) and the continental shelf where the coastal Member State exercise jurisdiction.
Over 90% of oil and over 60% of gas produced in Europe (EU and Norway) comes from offshore operations.
There are more than 1000 offshore oil or gas installations in operation in European waters.
Offshore operations (exploration and exploitation) are ongoing in the territorial waters of 12 Member States. Other Member States plan to commence drilling activities in the near future.
Past events show that major offshore accidents have occurred around the world relatively frequently, on average once every 10 years.
The outcome costs of the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010 are $40 billion, according to the operator of the license, BP.
Available statistics indicate that major offshore events, stemming from irregular situations and leading to either risks of or occurrence of damage, occur more frequently than is commonly assumed. 573 such incidents (offshore blowouts and well releases) have occurred worldwide since 1955.
Tangible costs for offshore accidents in Europe: assuming a recurrence rate of 35 years for each major incident and an average economic cost of €5 billion, this amounts to €140 million per year. Add to this an estimated annual figure of €65 million in property losses resulting from more common, less serious documented accidents.
Out of the nearly 1000 offshore installations operating in the EU, 486 are in the UK, 181 in the Netherlands, 61 in Denmark, 2 in Germany, 2 in Ireland, 123 in Italy, 4 in Spain, 2 in Greece, 7 in Romania, 1 in Bulgaria and 3 in Poland. Drilling operations have recently started in Cyprus. In Malta, offshore licences have been awarded. Some exploration wells have been drilled, but currently there are no offshore activities in Maltese waters.
The majority of offshore oil and gas in Europe is produced in the Danish, Dutch, German, Norwegian and UK sections of the North and Norwegian Seas.
Roughly half of the producing installations in the North Sea are past their predicted production life and the mobile rig fleet is ageing, with a number of mobile rigs of 1970's vintage.
The North Sea, together with the adjacent Norwegian Sea, has almost 50 years of experience of oil and gas operations. Building on the lessons of two unrelated offshore disasters in the 1980s in which 291 men died (Alexander Kielland in 1981 and Piper Alpha in 1988), the North Sea regulatory regimes have been reviewed and extensively revised in a number of national jurisdictions, including the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.
The offshore industry in different Member States operates to different environmental, health and safety standards.
Norway (a member of the European Economic Area, not of the European Union) operates offshore activities in water depths of up to 1 300 meters. Many countries want to follow Norway's example: In the UK, West of Shetlands, exploration is planned in depths of up to 1 600 meters, near the Faroe Islands at a sea depth of 1 100 meters. Norway's recently released report points out areas for significant improvements despite the fact that the Norwegian safety regime is generally regarded as top-level by global comparison. About one fifth of deepwater discoveries worldwide were made in European, mainly Norwegian, waters in 2009-10.
Romania has awarded a licence for drilling in the Black Sea, at a water depth of 1 000 meters.
In Lybian waters, in the Mediterranean, wells were drilled at 1 500 meters and beyond, but drillings are also planned in water depth exceeding 2 000 meters. In Egypt, wells are planned in waters up to 2 700 meters.
Offshore production also occurs in the Mediterranean, the Black and the Baltic Seas. With the exception of Italian waters, activities in these areas are relatively recent but are increasing. Some of these countries have less experience in managing offshore operations;
In the UK and Norway, 2.3 offshore blowouts/well releases occurred per year between 1980 and 2008 on average.
In the 31 years between Mexico's 1979 Ixtox and the USA's 2010 Deepwater Horizon disasters, there have been at least 9 other offshore disasters of a major scale, and a large number of lesser incidents that could have resulted in total loss of the rig or platform instead of the smaller damage or pollution that actually happened in those cases.
1992: directive on drilling extractive industries comes into force.
2004: environmental liability directive comes into force.
2007: European Commission adopts an integrated maritime policy.
2010: deadline for the transposition into Member States' legislation of the revised EU Waste Framework directive.
The new requirements will be applicable to new installations and operations immediately after the adoption of this new law by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.
Transitional periods of maximum 2 years are foreseen for existing installations.
The new rules could therefore enter into force in 2014 for existing production installations.
For planned production installations, there is a transition period of one year. This means that the rules could apply from 2013 onwards.
The Commission is putting forward a proposal for the EU to accede to a Protocol of the Barcelona Convention that protects the Mediterranean against pollution from offshore exploration and exploitation activities.
The Commission is also finalising an electronic guidance document on waste law which will include a section clarifying that, in accordance with the European Court's jurisprudence, oil spills are considered as waste under the EU waste legislation, with the resulting "polluter pays" consequences for the management of such waste to the waste producer.
European Commission site on offshore standards: