Ombudsman says European Commission failed to meet deadlines

Ombudsman says European Commission failed to meet deadlines

European Commission must authorize genetically modified food or feed before they can be marketed in the European Union. ASA urges continued effort to address delays in approvals.

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said that the European Commission failed to meet legally binding deadlines for submitting decisions on GMO applications.

O’Reilly’s decision was announced Jan. 15 and is in response to a compliant filed by EuropaBio, COCERAL and FEFAC.

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints of maladministration filed against European Union institutions and agencies.

ASA calls for continued improvement in European Commission GMO approval process.(Photo: Yelena Yemchuk/Thinkstock)

The three organizations, who represent companies that market genetically modified feed and food, filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman in 2014 after repeatedly raising concerns with the European Commission about the authorization of 20 genetically modified food and feed products between September 2012 and September 2014. The products can’t be placed on the market without authorization from the Commission.

The European Commission has three months from when the European Food Safety Authority publishes a scientific opinion to submit a draft decision on the application to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, which is comprised of representatives of all member countries and chaired by a European Commission representative.

EuropaBio, COCERAL and FEFAC said their applications averaged 16 months from submission to decision.

In her decision, O’Reilly said the European Commission failed to meet the three months deadline for submitting draft decisions and failed to make decisions “within a reasonable time” following the Appeal Committee’s failure to render an opinion. The failures were maladministration, she wrote in the decision.

“Given that the decision-making process in relation to genetically modified food and feed is currently being reviewed, the Ombudsman feels it is unnecessary to make a recommendation to the Commission in this case,” O’Reilly wrote.

She recommends the Commission bring any issues with the current timeline up during the review.

In a statement released after the decision was announced, the American Soybean Association urged the European Commission to continue to work on addressing delays in approvals. Several new soybean traits are awaiting approval by the Commission, said ASA president Richard Wilkins.

“The process for approving new traits for export must be a transparent, efficient and science-based one,” Wilkins said. “And the current Commission must not shirk its responsibility to provide final authorization of new biotech products after they have traveled through the EU’s established reviews and processes.”

Related reports: - Food groups welcome decision on GMO food, feed for import, processing – EU Ombudsman reprimands Commission over GM food and feed approval delays
All About Feed – EC must follow timelines on GM

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