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Food Safety

Health - Regulatory Committees - Standing Committee on Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Seeds and Plants

Short report of the meeting held on 10 July 2000

Chairman: Mr. Obst

All Member States present, except I.

Sole item of the Agenda: further Exchange of views on findings of adventitious presence of GMO seed in non-GMO varieties

1. The Committee discussed a plan for coordinated and harmonized interim action in respect of GMO impurities in seed of non-GMO varieties (conventional varieties), as outlined in the Short Report of the previous meeting held on 19 June 2000, with a view to immediate implementation and without prejudice to related legislative measures currently under preparation.

2. As a conclusion of this discussion, 13 of the 14 Member States present could agree to immediately organize testing of selected seed lots of conventional varieties to determine the presence of GMO impurities, until the coming into force of related new legislative measures and in accordance with the following criteria:

a) The testing would apply in particular to seeds of species grown in large scale in whole or part of the Community, and for which the presence of GMO's is suspected. This includes seeds of all categories (pre-basic seed, basic seed, certified seed of the different generations, commercial seed, standard seed). In the case of hybrid varieties, particular attention will be given to seeds of the parental lines.

b) In the first phase, the species concerned would be those listed hereafter:

- beet (Directive 66/400/EEC)

- maize (Directive 66/402/EEC)

- rapeseed (Directive 69/208/EEC)

- soya bean (Directive 69/208/EEC)

- cotton (Directive 69/208/EEC)

- tomato, for processing purposes (Directive 70/458/EEC).

In addition, individual Member States may carry out the testing of seed lots of any other species, for which they suspect the presence of GMO's. These Member States would inform the other Member States and the Commission of their related intention and the reasons therefore.

c) The testing would in principle apply to seeds which have been produced in the Community and to seeds from third countries. In a first phase, particular attention will be given to seeds produced in geographical areas in which GMO's not covered by an EU authorization under part C of Directive 90/220/EEC are grown.

d) The competent authorities of the Member States would seek information, through administrative cooperation, on the places where the seed lots concerned are stored or held, including seed lots from third countries. The testing of seed lots from third countries would be carried out by the Member State in which customs clearance takes place, or has been completed for marketing.

e) The competent authorities of the Member States would organize, with the participation of seed industry, appropriate sampling and testing for the presence of GMO impurities, in accordance with existing procedures and methods which have been internationally established or are otherwise available in the respective Member States.

f) Member States would take action where the results of the testing confirm the presence of GMO impurities which are not covered by an EU authorization under part C of Directive 90/220/EEC or which are not clearly identifiable as being covered by such an authorization.

g) Member States would take appropriate action where the results of the testing confirm that the level of GMO impurities which are clearly identifiable as being covered by an EU authorization under part C of Directive 90/220/EEC exceeds the respective standards laid down in the seed legislation for the varietal purity, and in any case amounts to more than a threshold applicable for consistency with labelling requirements established for foods and food ingredients produced from seed. In an interim phase until the coming into force of related legislative measures, a threshold of 0,5 % would be considered as appropriate, without prejudice to alternative levels which Member States do apply under current non-seed law. In this case, the requirement for a specific labelling would be considered as appropriate action.

h) Member States would inform the other Member States and the Commission of any finding as specified under f) and g) above. The information would include relevant references concerning the intercepted seed lots.

i) Further details of the plan would progressively be established. They may include a specification of the most appropriate types of actions to be taken under f) and g) above, but also of measures which might be envisaged in respect of crops growing in fields which were sown with seed used prior to its testing and in which GMO impurities have been found.

3. The Committee noted an information from A according to which this Member State has made use of Article 16 of Directive 90/220/EEC for three GMO events and therefore considers the varieties derived therefrom as unauthorised GMO's.

4. That the plan as outlined under point 2 above would be subject to regular review and to possible updating or extension.

5. The Committee was informed, by the Commission (SANCO E 1), of a number of technical and scientific aspects concerning available sampling procedures and testing methods for use under the above plan. It welcomed the proposal to set up a technical working group to identify appropriate sampling procedures and testing methods and to work out a system of harmonized use of such procedures and methods throughout the Community, account being taken of current work ongoing in this matter both in the Community (JRCs) and internationally. Each Member State will designate to the Commission two experts for this task, one concerning the sampling procedures and the other for the testing methods.

6. Other Business:

- The Commission (SANCO E 1) reported on the results of the OECD Annual Meeting of the Designated Authorities for the OECD Schemes for the Varietal Certification of Seed Moving in International Trade held in Celle (D) on 4-6 July 2000, and in particular on the outcome of the discussions on the "International Seed Network Initiative on the Transboundary Movement of Seed and Biotechnology". The common position of the Community and its Member States, as previously established, was defended. A meeting of an OECD Working Group on "Genetically Modified Seed" is scheduled for 23-24 August 2000 in San Antonio/Texas (USA), for further examination of the aforesaid Seed Network Initiative.

- EL indicated that the reporting by MS on their respective situation concerning the introduction of seed lots with GMO seeds, as made in the meeting of 30 May 2000 (see point 2, third paragraph, of the report of that meeting) was not restricted to seeds of oilseed rape. Indeed, EL had also reported on a similar situation which had occurred in the case of cotton seed.

N.B: The measures on which the Committee has given an opinion are subject to the appropriate procedure for final adoption by the Commission

List of participants


Ministry or Organization

Number of persons


Ministère Agriculture et des Classes Moyennes






Ministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten



Ministry of Agriculture



Ministerio de Medio Ambiente



Ministère de l'agriculture et de la pêche sous direction de la foret + GNIS



Forest Service, Department of the Marine and Natural Resources



Administration des Service Techniques de l'Agriculture






Forstliche Bundesversuchsanstald, Bundesamt und Forschungszentrum für Landwirtschaft



Ministerio da Agricultura - Direcção Geral de Protecção das Culturas



Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry



Swedish Board of Agriculture



Forestry Commission



Ministry of Agriculture



Ministry of Agriculture



Plant Variety Office



European Commission - SANCO



Other General Directorates







Public HealthFood SafetyConsumer Affairs