BRUSSELS, Belgium ¿ ¿It is too early to determine the possible impact on human health and the environment¿ of genetic use restriction technologies, according to the European Commission.

Public Health Commissioner David Byrne responded neutrally to questioning from Euro-MPs about the safety of such products.

Quizzed by Belgian Euro-MP Girard Deprez about Monsanto¿s techniques of controlling genetic traits of crops, and about the ¿risks which this type of genetic manipulation may pose to consumers of food products derived from this process,¿ Byrne was noncommittal. The commission is aware of the fact that ¿all major biotech companies and several research institutions in the United States and Europe are developing these technologies,¿ he said. But ¿they are still in the conceptual or developmental stage and their commercialization will take some more years.¿ He said any future products would, in accordance with EU rules, have to be assessed for their safety for human health and the environment before they could be placed on the EU market.

He pointed out that under recent amendments to EU rules, any genetically modified varieties of agricultural or vegetable plant species may be approved for marketing as of Feb. 1, 2000, only if all appropriate measures have been taken to avoid adverse effects on human health and the environment. Sales catalogues and labeling must indicate that products produced in Europe have been genetically modified, and the commission is shortly to propose similar labeling requirements for imported seed, the commissioner said.