'Novel foods' regulation returns to the EU's agenda

The European Commission and Parliament are renewing their attempt to update the EU's regulation on novel foods, which was rejected three years ago over ethical and safety concerns related to animal cloning for food production.

The EU regulation on novel foods, which dates back to 1997, is up for a review again, after a last-chance conciliation in March 2011 failed to reach agreement on the use of cloned animals' offspring for food production.

While the two institutions agreed to ban the use of cloning in animal reproduction for food production, and to ban comestible products from cloned animals altogether, they clashed on allowing onto the EU market food obtained from clones' offspring.

The Commission was sent back to the drawing board and tabled a revised proposal in December 2013, which included a ban on the use and import of cloned animal as well as the marketing of food derived from them.

The new proposal is limited to the safety of novel foods and is based on the overall agreement achieved in 2011.

For those, the Commission wants a simpler, clearer and more efficient authorisation procedure, which it believes should be centralised at European level.

"The regulation aims at facilitating market authorisation of new foods, while at the same time ensuring safety and helping innovation, especially for SMEs," explained Chantal Bruetschy, an official who heads the biotechnology unit at the European Commission's health and consumer directorate (DG Sanco).

"Today, the legislation is not efficient, because the procedures are long and everyone agrees that there is room for improvement," she told a meeting of the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).

"We are keen to speed up the approval system by facilitating market access," Bruetschy told the Committee MEPs who were meeting for the first time since the European elections were held in May this year.

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