BRUSSELS, BELGIUM —The biotechnology industry (EuropaBio), the grain traders (COCERAL) and the feed manufacturers (FEFAC) said on Jan. 19 that they welcome the European Ombudsman’s decision on their complaint regarding the European Commission’s handling of authorization applications for genetically modified (GMO) food and feed for import and processing.
The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in E.U. institutions and agencies.
EuropaBio, COCERAL and FEFAC jointly filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman on Sept. 12, 2014 after having repeatedly raised their concerns with the European Commission concerning the unduly delayed authorizations for GMO products and the resulting trade disruptions in the past. This complaint concerns delays caused at two stages of the authorization process for GMO applications: (1) the stage at which the European Commission is bound by law to submit a draft implementing decision for vote to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed within three months of a positive safety assessment by EFSA, and (2) the stage when the Commission adopts the draft implementing decision after the Appeal Committee reaches no qualified majority during a vote.
The European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly decided that between 2012 and 2014 the commission failed to meet the three months legally binding deadline for submitting draft decisions to the Standing Committee and to make its decisions within a reasonable time following the failure of the Appeal Committee to deliver an opinion.
The Commission acknowledged on several occasions its systematic failure to comply with the above-mentioned three-month deadline. For products approved in 2015, this phase alone took over 16 months instead of three months as required by law. The Commission unilaterally caused a de facto moratorium from late 2013 to spring 2015 and admitted that “if the result of the vote in the Appeal Committee is “No opinion”, the Commission is required by the GMO legal framework and by the Charter of Fundamental Rights to adopt a decision on the application.”
There are currently more than 40 GMO applications for the import of GM grain pending in the system.