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Brussels, 4 June 2003

The European Parliament approves in second reading the Proposal for a Regulation on the transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms

The Members of the European Parliament have today reached agreement which should allow the legislation to be formally adopted next week on the Proposal for a Regulation on the transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms. This agreement marks an important step towards the full implementation into Community legislation of the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "The agreement achieved today confirms the determination of the European Union to to fully implement the Biosafety Protocol as soon as it enters into force. The European Union has been a key player in the international negotiations from the very beginning, and we are now sending a clear signal that we are able to honour our commitments ".

The Proposal on the transboundary movements of GMOs is linked to the recent ratification by the European Community of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The overall purpose of this United Nations agreement is to establish common rules to be followed in transboundary movements of GMOs in order to ensure, on a global scale, the protection of biodiversity and of human health.

The European Union has to fulfil its international obligations and therefore must transpose into its own law order the provisions of the Biosafety Protocol. This Proposal complements the existing Community regulatory framework, in particular for exports of GMOs, in order to align it with the provisions of the Biosafety Protocol.

Commissioner Wallström added: "This is a global issue which needs global action. The Biosafety Protocol establishes one set of basic international rules for dealing with GMOs. The Protocol will ensure that countries exporting or importing GMOs can rely on a sound regulatory framework, so that they can make informed choices. This Protocol will be particularly helpful for developing countries, which may lack the resources to properly assess the risks and the benefits of biotechnology. We call on countries to ratify and implement the Biosafety Protocol and we invite those who are not in a position to ratify to contribute to the achievement of its objectives on a voluntary basis."

The main elements of the proposal are:

The obligation to notify exports of GMOs intended for deliberate release into the environment;

The obligation to provide information to our international partners on Community practices, legislation and decisions on GMOs, as well as on accidental releases of GMOs;

A set of rules for identifying GMOs for export.

The current Proposal does not foresee new specific Community provisions for imports or for movements of GMOs between Member States. These operations will continue to be covered by existing Community legislation.

In light of the imminent entry into force of the Biosafety Protocol(1), the Commission endeavoured to facilitate a second reading agreement, which will allow the respect of the international deadlines. The compromise text is broadly in line with the overall approach of the Commission's original position, but includes stricter provisions as regards the explicit consent to be given from importing countries. Today's agreement is based on a close co-operation between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council, and it should be formally adopted at the next Environment Council.

(1) 49 countries have already ratified the Protocol, and that the deposit of 50 instruments of ratification is required for the entry into force of the Protocol.

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