Tuesday, 24 February 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
355. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Ireland supported lifting the ban on genetically modified sweetcorn BT11 by the EU’s regulatory committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5892/04]
356. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children the position the Government is taking on the issue of genetically modified sweetcorn BT11 during the EU Presidency since the issue has been referred by the Commission to the Council of Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5893/04]
At a meeting of the standing committee on the food chain and animal health on 8 December 2003, member states were asked to give an opinion on a draft Commission decision authorising the placing on the market of sweetcorn from a genetically modified maize line BT11 under Regulation (EC) No. 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council. The Irish representative at the meeting voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal. The decision was based on the scientific risk assessment undertaken on the product, initially by the Netherland’s/Dutch food assessment body and subsequently by the EU Scientific Committee on Food. It was concluded that BT11 sweet maize is as safe for use by humans as conventional sweet maize.
Ireland’s position also reflected the fact that safeguard measures on labelling and traceability are in place following the completion of the European legislative framework for GMOs earlier this year. The new legislation ensures the full traceability of GMOs from farm to table. It also provides consumers with comprehensive information by labelling all food and feed consisting of, containing or produced from a GMO.
As a qualified majority was not achieved in the vote on 8 December, the matter was recently referred to Council for a decision. It has three months from the referral date to adopt or reject the proposal by qualified majority. If a qualified majority is not achieved, the proposal will revert to the Commission which may make the decision under its own authority. My officials are consulting officials in the Department of Agriculture and Food with a view to bringing the matter to Council in the near future.
Ireland’s national position on the Council will continue to be based on the scientific risk assessment that BT11 sweet maize is as safe as conventional sweet maize. Ireland, as Council President, will be obliged to act in a neutral fashion and will seek to resolve the issue by a qualified majority.
I am satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure the safety of authorised GM foods, or foods containing GM ingredients, placed on the market in Ireland. The EU has one of the most rigorous regimes for the assessment of GMOs as well as food and feed derived from GMOs. Only GM foods that satisfy the highest safety standards are allowed on the market.
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