BRUSSELS, Belgium ¿ Industry has broadly welcomed the EU proposals announced in July for new authorization rules on genetically modified organisms, but environmental organizations say the proposals put industry first and environment and consumers second.

EuropaBio, the European biotechnology industry lobby, says it ¿especially welcomes¿ the fact that the proposals explicitly recognize that there is a possibility of ¿technically unavoidable traces of biotechnology-based ingredients throughout the food chain.¿ It says the proposals appear to ¿deal with this in a pragmatic manner.¿ It also backs the idea of basing the new GMO authorization procedure on an opinion of the soon-to-be-established European Food Authority (EFA). It says this is ¿a step in the right direction to achieving a strong and effective central EFA and a transparent and workable EU-wide approval system for placing biotechnology-based products on the market.¿

It accepts the need for validated sampling and detection methods operating across the EU, as ¿crucial elements to ensure an effective GMO regulatory system.¿ But it says that on the detailed mechanisms for traceability and labeling, ¿EuropaBio will want to ensure that the proposals will make for a system that is practical, enforceable, cost-effective and non-discriminatory.¿

But Friends of the Earth described the proposals as ¿a concession for the biotech industry, to the detriment of European citizens.¿ The proposals ¿contain major compromises that favor GMO producers,¿ says the environmentalist organization. It is particularly opposed to what the industry has welcomed as a ¿pragmatic¿ approach to adventitious contamination. For Friends of the Earth, this means that GMOs not authorized in the European Union will be tolerated up to a threshold of 1 percent as long as their presence is deemed ¿adventitious¿ or ¿technically unavoidable.¿ The environmentalist view is that these unauthorized GMOs, as well as food/feed derived from them, should have to be clearly labeled.

¿The market is giving biotech companies a license to pollute.¿ All companies have to do now is to say that the GMO contamination they created was accidental,¿ and they get away with it,¿ said Gill Lacroix, biotechnology coordinator at FoE Europe in Brussels. ¿It¿s the thin-end-of-the-wedge syndrome ¿ they will contaminate our agriculture and food supply and that contamination will self-perpetuate as time goes on. They have managed to convince the Commission to legislate on how to accommodate GMO pollution, rather than to act on how to prevent it.¿ She said the EU ¿is just capitulating to U.S. government pressure and the interests of biotech companies.¿