Case histories
GMO directive
0 On DEsite
1 General
2 Pillar structure
3 Bodies
4 Decision-making
5 Lobby groups
6 Case histories
  • Theory
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  • GMO directive
  • 7 Information and publications

    On 23 February 1998, the Commission proposed changing the existing directive 90/220/EC, bearing on the purposeful introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the environment, i.e., marketing genetically engineered foodstuffs, and using GMOs for research. The Commission wished to change the directive in order to render decision-making on this subject more efficient and transparent. To guarantee a high level of protection for consumers, control of the use of GMOs should also be improved.

    The proposal was sent to the Economic and Social Committee and the European Parliament by way of the Council.

    On 9 September 1998, the Economic and Social Committee expressed its favourable advisory opinion on the Commission´s proposal. However, the ESC did point out that the risks of interaction between GMOs and ecosystems needed to be evaluated. The ESC also insisted that the public should be properly informed about GMOs.

    On 21 January 1999, the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection adopted a report proposing amendments to the Commission´s proposal. These bore especially on the liability of those introducing GMOs into the environment. In addition, Parliament wanted to see the development of a system that would improve the traceability of products containing GMOs. Poisonous substances or genes resistant to antibiotics were not to be used in GMOs either. Before GMOs are exported to third countries, these countries should be informed about the GMOs and give permission for import.

    On 26 March 1999, the Commission changed its proposal and thus adopted the 39 amendments of Parliament.

    On 9 December 1999, the Council formally and unanimously decided on the common position. The ministers had already reached a political agreement on the content of this position for the environment on 25 June 1999. The common position changed the directive especially as regards labelling and the compulsory consultation of the public before GMOs may be distributed or introduced into the market. The precautionary principle (caution comes first) must also be observed. The Council stipulated that licences for marketing products containing GMOs would be valid for ten years.

    The common position was approved by the Commission on 13 January 2000, as it builds on the Commission´s proposal.

    In its second reading of 21 March 2000, Parliament made 29 amendments to the common position of the Council. Parliament wished to see strict liability rules for those who introduce GMOs into the environment. It also underlined that both the Member State and third countries must give their permission before products containing GMOs may be exported to those countries.

    On 16 May 2000, the Commission indicated that, in its view, 16 out of 29 amendments were not acceptable.

    On 14 December 2000, a Conciliation Committee reached agreement on a joint text of the Directive. The compromise package covered the following issues. A timetable for phasing out antibiotic resistance makers in GMOs was introduced. A Commission undertaking to bring forward a legislative proposal to eliminate environmental risks was agreed upon. Importing countries should be notified of any imports of GMOs and provided with accurate information.

    On 14 February 2001, the European Parliament adopted the joint text in a third reading. The Council agreed one day later. The Directive was published in the Official Journal of 17 March 2001 (OJ L 106, 17/03/2001, p. 1-39).


    For a full history of the development of this directive, including references to accompanying documents, PRELEX is the ideal database. The result of a search operation in this database looks like this.