b"universities from several EU countries.strictly if obtained through NBTs, while Independence is a strong requirementit falls out of the scope of these strict for joining the committee, but the grouplaws when it has occurred as a result of welcomes any hard-working supporterrandomly induced mutations. The focus who is enthusiastic about their initiative. of our proposal is therefore to update the Directive and allow the responsible, WHAT EXACTLY IS A EUROPEANtransparent and safe use of novel breed-CITIZENS INITIATIVE? ing techniques by shifting the focus Lilli Schtz, who is pursuing a Masterstowards the end products.in Crop Sciences, explains a European Citizens Initiative is an official tool thatWHAT IS THE PROPOSAL?is available to any European citizen whoAccording to Helmlinger, their proposal wishes to influence EU-wide policies onis a legal draft to amend the technical particular issues.annexes of Directive 2001/18 governing In other words, every Europeanthe deliberate release into the environ-citizen can start a European Citizens'ment of GMOs. Initiative on an issue which falls intoWithin the proposal, we demand a the competencies oftheEuropeanclear distinction of mutagenesis based Commission, Schtz says. For this, atNPBTs and techniques resulting in con-least seven citizens from different EUventional GMOs, as these techniques may member states need to submit a pro- yield principally dissimilar products,Lilli Schtzposal urging the European Commissionsays Helmlinger.to act upon a certain issue in a certainFurthermore, we demand a more way. After submitting the proposal, theproduct-based risk classification of the Commission has two months to stateresulting organisms rather than a tech-whether the initiative is admissible fornique-based one. This is because the risks registration. When the Commissionare, if anything, associated with the prod-decides that an initiative is admissi- uct, and not with the technique to obtain ble, the initiators have one year to collectthe product, and the use of a certain tech-one million signatures.nique alone does not justify the require-These signatures may come fromment of a stricter risk assessment.citizens of all EU member states, whileTo achieve the enhanced focus there are country-specific thresholdson the product, the group suggests the proportional to the respective popu- establishment of a positive list of safe lations which need to be reached inspecies-specific traits. This means that at least seven member states. If thisproducts of NPBTs shall require a noti-happens, the European Commissionfication rather than an authorisation if needs to consider the proposal. Theythey include only traits on this positive will decide whether to take action on thelist, as well as no foreign genetic material. issues raised by the citizens, for instanceOrganisms with novel traits shall con-by proposing a law, which would thentinue to be assessed for safety and shall be reviewed by the Parliament and therequire authorisation prior to cultivation. Council in the Ordinary LegislativeOverall,ourchangestothe Procedure. Their proposed law onlyDirective result in lower assessmentMartina Helmlingercomes into effect if they both accept it. stringency for products which are indis-tinguishable from those obtained through WHY WAS IT NECESSARY TOtraditional breeding, Schtz explains. START THIS INITIATIVE? At the same time, the risk assessment We started our initiative in response torequirements for products with novel the European Court of Justice ruling oftraits are retained, and the update of last year that has resulted in an implicitthese is not in the scope of our proposal.ban of new breeding techniques for appli-In regard to feedback from the cations in EU agriculture, Helmlingerindustry at large, Scudiero says the pro-explains. This ruling was largely criti- posal is just one possibility out of many cized, but the underlying root problem ismore policy options, and they do not not the ruling itself which just gives anclaim their proposal to be the only feasi-interpretation of the law, but the outdatedble solution to the problem. Directive 2001/18/ EC on the deliberateHowever, we strongly believe that release into the environment of genet- it could be a first effective step for a ically modified organisms on which thetimely change which may eventually ruling was based. lead to the much-needed update of cur-Scudiero says this Directive is clus- rent laws governing biotech innovations, tered with vague definitions that do notsays Scudiero. We know that academics, reflect current scientific knowledge, andinstitutions and the seed sector have also it stipulates a safety assessment proce- elaborated legislative proposals which dure that is based on the applied tech- partly resemble, and partly dissemble niques rather than the end products.our proposal quite significantly. It is very This, she says, may lead to a situationplausible that the seed sector might notLavinia Scudierowhere the same product is regulatedcompletely agree with every word of EUROPEAN-SEED.COMIEUROPEAN SEED I 29"