The development of EU-wide legislation on the co-existence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming “does not appear justified at this time”, according to the European Commission.

A report by the EC has come to this conclusion from its “limited experience with the cultivation of GM crops and the need to conclude the process of introducing national measures,” it said.

Before any final decision is taken, the Commission will engage in an in-depth consultative process with stakeholders. It said it will look to a conference in Vienna on 5-6 April for such a discussion.

At present, co-existence measures are the subject of a Commission Recommendation from July 2003. They are designed to ensure that GM crops can be grown along with non-GM crops without negative economic consequences caused by accidental mixing of the two.

The Commission said it proposes to work jointly with the Member States and stakeholders on the development of recommendations for crop-specific technical segregation measures.

“The development of efficient and cost-effective strategies to ensure co-existence is vital to ensure a practical choice between GM and non-GM produce for farmers and consumers,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for agriculture and rural development.

“This is not a question of health or environmental protection, because no GMOs are allowed on the EU market unless they have been proved to be completely safe. To ensure that consumers know exactly what they are buying the EU has developed an advanced labelling and traceability system for GMOs. Segregation measures must be in place to ensure that accidental traces of GMOs in conventional or organic products are kept within the strict ranges defined by EU legislation. Growing conditions are very varied from country to country and experience with GM crops is still limited in Europe. It therefore does not seem appropriate to propose unified EU rules at this time.”