Assuring Consumer Confidence in the Safety of Biotechnology and Food Products. Comments on the Commission Proposal to Establish a Food Safety Authority.

06.03.2000

Assuring Consumer Confidence in the Safety of Biotechnology and Food Products. Comments on the Commission Proposal to Establish a Food Safety Authority.

In the wake of recent food scandals , European citizens do not have trust in the complex array of institutions responsible for assessing and ensuring food safety. The Plant Biotechnology Unit of EuropaBio supports the mission of President Romano Prodi and the European Commission to address the situation and accepts the Commission White Paper on Food Safety released on 12 January 2000 as a first step towards improving consumer confidence.

The remarks in this paper are confined to addressing the situation as regards novel biotechnology seeds and plant products and the assurance of their safety for use in the food chain, including the animal feed chain. The Plant Biotechnology Unit recognises that European citizens seek regulatory control of the seed and food industry, have a low level of trust in politicians to play this role and seek independent, high-quality institutions responsible for assessing human and environmental safety whom they can trust to be responsible for giving them accurate information and safeguarding their interests.

During the 90’s, Europe has dismantled internal borders and created the single market, with the consequence that individual food chain products and food ingredients are traded more widely throughout the community and across National boundaries. At the same time the structure and operation of Europe’s regulatory structures have not kept pace and still depend in the main on the nationally controlled systems which are often subject to national political control. This does not give confidence in food safety decisions which cross European National borders.

The Commission White Paper acknowledges that environmental policy plays an important role in ensuring safe food for the consumer. The Plant Biotechnology Unit wishes to see scientific advice and communication concerning the environmental impacts of genetically modified plants (currently regulated under Directive 90/220) included within the remit of the Authority, to ensure the same level of scientific rigour and consumer confidence in decisions pertaining to environmental and food safety of genetically modified seeds and plant products.