EFSA issues GMO opinion

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientists have concluded that there is no new scientific evidence, in a recently submitted report, to justify the banning of certain GMOs in Upper Austria. EFSA was asked to look at the health and environment issues within its remit, but not at other issues such as information relating to the management of coexistence.

This was a relatively straightforward case,’ said EFSA Executive Director, Geoffrey Podger. ‘Our Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms was recently asked to consider whether any new evidence had been presented which would justify the ban. It became clear to them, after giving due consideration to the report which had been presented, that it contained no new public health or environment related evidence which would justify a different approach being taken in Upper Austria, than for the EU in general. It also became clear that there was no requirement to make any changes to the overall EU approach to GMO risk assessment on the basis of the evidence presented. That said, EFSA remains fully committed to careful scrutiny of biotechnology issues in order to protect the safety of the European public.’

Background

The Provincial Government of Upper Austria proposed the introduction of a draft new law that would ban; the cultivation of genetically modified seeds and propagating material; the use of transgenic animals for breeding purposes and; the release of transgenic animals, in particular for hunting and fishing purposes, in Upper Austria.

The proposed legislation was based on a report entitled "GMO-free agricultural areas: design and analysis of scenarios and implementation steps". Austriathen notified the European Commission of its intent in compliance with Article 95(5) of the Treaty.

Consequently, in May, the European Commission decided to request a scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Its aim was to determine whether the information in the report contained any new scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human health and the environment, that would justify Upper Austriaimplementing such a GM ban. Specifically, the ban was to cover GM seeds, propagating material or transgenic animals, including those that have already been authorised under Directive 90/220/EEC or Directive 2001/18/EC. In particular, EFSA was asked to comment on whether the scientific information presented in the report provided new data that would invalidate the provisions for environmental risk assessment under the above legislation. As requested, EFSA commented on issues within its remit, relating to human health and the environment, and not on other issues such as information relating to the management of co-existence.

Following investigation of the evidence presented in the report, EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms has concluded there is no new scientific evidence in the report, in terms of risk to human health and the environment, to justify the ban. Neither did it find any new data that would justify changing the methods used, at present, to assess the environmental risk of GMOs that currently hold marketing consent in the EU.