Brussels, 6 November 2013
Statement by EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, on Commission's decision on GM Pioneer 1507
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
The College this morning had a lengthy debate on the General Court Ruling regarding the application for authorization by a company called Pioneer of maize 1507 for cultivation.
And please allow me to recall the facts of the case, because this application was made in 2001; twelve years ago.
But on the 26th September 2013, in the current year, the General Court of the European Union delivered a ruling finding that the Commission failed to act on this GMO cultivation request, which I repeat had been submitted in 2001, but even though if it had been referred to the Standing Committee by the Commission with a positive recommendation, it had never been referred to the Council of the Ministers.
I would like to recall that the European Food Safety Agency, EFSA, had already submitted positive opinions on this request in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and twice in 2012, so in all there are six positive opinions by EFSA.
The Commission as "Guardian of the Treaties" has to comply with this ruling and today acted by closing this finding that we failed to act, by referring the dossier to the Council of Ministers. So now the dossier will go to the Council of Environment Ministers who will decide whether to approve this cultivation or not, of course, as usual in such cases according to the Treaties, one has to muster a qualified majority on this request. At the same time the Commission has approved a parallel course of actions which is to reactivate a fresh debate on the so-called "cultivation proposal", which has already been approved by the European Parliament but it's been stuck in the Council of Ministers. This cultivation proposal based on the subsidiarity principle, would allow Member States to restrict or prohibit cultivation of GMOs on their territories on grounds other than those relating to risks to health and the environment. So, if this cultivation proposal, which I hope it will also be discussed in the next Council of Ministers of Environment, were to be approved, as we would like it to be approved, and as the European Parliament would like it to be approved, this would mean that if the Commission says "no" to a cultivation dossier, then it cannot be cultivated on European territory. But, if the Commission says "yes", it won't be "yes" for everybody; because each Member State on specific grounds other than health and environment can refuse to allow that cultivation on its own territory, so I would say that this is the pure principle of pedigree subsidiarity.
Let me recall that this cultivation proposal, which we are trying to activate in Council, was tabled by the Commission three years ago, indeed it was part of the electoral program of the current Presidency of the Commission in 2009, and was broadly supported, not only by the Parliament but there was also a considerable majority - in number, not in votes - of Member States in the Council, I believe 24 out of 27 had expressed support for this proposal. But there was not qualified majority in favour.
So now I call on the Council to find an agreement on this cultivation proposal to allow Member States to exercise the freedom to choose whether or not to cultivate GMOs on their territory.
And I believe that the Court's decision of the 26th of September, which we are applying today by sending the matter to the Council and therefore we are no longer in a position of failure to act, but we are acting on this maize 1507 confirms the urgency of reconciling strict and predictable European authorisation rules for GMO cultivation, and at the same time taking into account in a fair way national contexts in Member States.