Tuesday morning the European Parliament rejected a compromise on the Novel Food regulation that would have banned cloning for food production and prevented food from cloned animals from reaching the plates of consumers. Following a marathon 12 hour conciliation meeting, Mr. Sándor Fazekas, Minister of rural development said on behalf of the Presidency: “The Presidency secured a clear mandate from the Council to establish a practically and legally feasible framework providing the highest possible standards for food safety. This would have included a ban on cloning for food purposes, the introduction of full traceability of cloned animals and the gradual introduction of labelling to provide a basis for informed consumer choice. The EP chose to go down the road of political grandstanding instead and tried to push the Council to accept a misleading, unfeasible “solution” that in practice would have required drawing a family tree for each slice of cheese or salami. Given that this “solution” would have given a false sense of security to consumers and risked dragging us into a full blown trade war, the Council as responsible co-legislator was unable to follow the Parliament down this road.”
Negotiations have started with a trilogue at 19:00 on Monday, 28 March, and continued until 7:00 in the morning. The Hungarian Presidency - has worked for months to complete this round of negotiations, bringing down the number of outstanding issues from 85 at the beginning of February to a mere two by Monday. In the vast majority of those issues it was the Council that accepted the Parliament’s position. Therefore we were extremely disappointed when at 7:00 the delegation of the European Parliament stood up from the table and refused to continue the discussion.
the ban of cloning for food production
There has been a clear agreement between the European Parliament and the Council to ban the use of cloning in animal reproduction aimed at food production and to ban food products from cloned animals altogether. This reflects the clear opinion of the majority of European consumers, who consider that we do not have enough knowledge on the impact of foodstuff from cloned animals on human health. Such ban on cloning for food production necessitates that imported foodstuff derived from cloned animals should not be allowed to enter the internal market from third countries.
on food obtained from naturally conceived offspring of clones
From the very beginning, Member States wanted to subject decisions on banning food products from the offspring of cloned animals to scientifically sound feasibility and impact assessments.
Furthermore, the Council insisted on making sure that the legislation would be in line with all international obligations.
Finally, the Council agreed with the need to establish traceability and labelling systems for food products from the offspring of clones, so as to allow consumers to make informed choices.
Three ears of negotiations thrown out the window
The Commission has proposed the regulation on novel food in 2008, covering all and any foodstuff not consumed significantly in the Union before 1997. Council and Parliament have already exhausted two rounds of negotiations and were at the end of the third and final reading of the text. Given that there was no agreement, the proposal is lost, and with it the potential for adequately addressing emerging issues such as nanofood, innovative foodstuffs and enhancing the competitiveness of the European food industry. Even though the Commission has the option to present a new proposal and re-launch the procedure, this might take several years and may well become hostage again to short term interests.