The European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has expressed concerns about the quality of information available on the long-term health and environmental effects and of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Addressing the conference on GMO co-existence in Vienna yesterday (5 April), Dimas warned that the EU’s Food Safety Agency had considered the short-term consequences of licensing GMOs but failed to address the long-term effects. He also suggested that the FSA was too reliant on data provided by the biotech industry and said that the agency had undergone an external evaluation that suggested various changes were needed to its risk assessment practices.

Dimas emphasised the environmental concerns surrounding the licensing of GMO crops. “Organic farmers are particularly concerned about the purity of their products and the damage they may suffer in case of admixture of their produce with GMOs,” he said.

“Various regions in Europe where products of high quality and of controlled origin are produced fear that they will lose their good reputation if GM crops are to be cultivated in proximity. Finally, there are even greater fears about the impact of GM crops on the environment and on biodiversity.

“In response to such fears, many regions have declared themselves ‘GM-free’ zones. Certain Member States have also taken further action and imposed bans on certain GM products in an attempt to prevent their cultivation.”

Dimas stressed that “protecting human health and the environment are key concerns for the Commission”, arguing that a pan-European policy on GMOs is inappropriate and that action should be taken to ensure that GMOs posed no risk before licenses allowing their sale and cultivation are granted.