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10. 2. 98

Official Journal of the European Communities

C 45/7

Can the Commission give a ruling on the legality of these measures in the light of Community law? If so, what action could be taken against the French authorities?

Supplementary answer given by Mr Monti on behalf of the Commission

(23 June 1997)

Further to its answer of 2 April 1997 ( 1 ), the Commission has tried to obtain additional information from the complainants so as to be able to reply to the question on the refining and distribution of petroleum products in France. Since this information has not reached it, the Commission is not able to adopt a position. It will be able to examine the matter if the complainants would be kind enough to send it precise details of the facts.

( 1 )

OJ C 217, 17.7.1997, p. 216.

(98/C 45/09)


by Nel van Dijk (V) to the Commission

(6 March 1997)

Subject: Capture of hamsters in France

Has the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Strasbourg requested permission from the French Minister of the Environment to capture hamsters in the de´partement of Bas-Rhin?

Is the capture of hamsters, for which a licence has always been granted in the past, a threat to the most viable hamster population in Western Europe which, however, like all the other populations in Western Europe, is visibly on the decrease despite the strict protection which the hamster should enjoy pursuant to Article 12 of the habitats Directive, 92/43/EEC ( 1 )?

Does the French government have any research data to indicate that the capture of hamsters in Bas-Rhin does not harm the efforts to enable the species in question to continue living in its natural range at a favourable conservation status, as laid down in Article 16 of the habitats directive?

Did the Institut de Physiologie of the medical faculty in Strasbourg succeed in breeding hamsters two years ago? Does this not mean that no licence should be granted for the capture of hamsters inv the wild, given that Article 16 of the habitats directive permits such capture only if there is no satisfactory alternative?

Has the French Minister of the Environment granted permission in recent years for the capture of hamsters in Bas-Rhin? Has the French government provided adequate justification for this decision in the biennial report on derogations from the habitats directive which it should have forwarded to the Commission pursuant to Article


Has the Fauna Committee of the Conseil National pour la Protection de la Nature recently advised the French Minister of the Environment not to grant the CNRS permission for the capture of hamsters?

Will the Commission try (once again) to make clear to the French government that France, too, is obliged to comply with the habitats directive and that there can be no question of the capture of wild hamsters?


C 45/8

Official Journal of the European Communities

10. 2. 98

Supplementary answer given by Mrs Bjerregaard on behalf of the Commission

(30 June 1997)

Further to its answer of 9 April 1997, the Commision is pleased to inform the Honourable Member of the following:

Based on information provided by the French authorities, it appears that a laboratory in Strasbourg has been running research programmes for several years involving the study of the common hamster. This laboratory was authorised to capture hamsters and was encouraged to breed them. There has been a significant decline in the common hamster's natural habitat during recent decades, but the main cause for this seems to be changes to the habitat itself rather than the licensed captures. In 1997 the French Ministry, aware of the adverse impact of captures on the hamster population, refused to grant the authorisation requested. These could still be permitted, however, should any crop damage occur, as provided for in Article 16 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

The Commission has not received from the French authorities the biennial report on derogations from the Directive. It will remind the French authorities once again of their obligations under the Directive.

(98/C 45/10)


by Giuseppe Rauti (NI) to the Commission

(10 March 1997)

Subject: New challenges to genetically modified maize

Several days ago, France banned the cultivation of genetically modified maize in its territory. In the view of the author of this question, this is a new and highly significant development about which the Commission must provide an informed explanation since, in many EU countries, governments, the press and environmental associations are either in two minds or are openly taking up positions opposing this new type of maize. In any case, despite the extremely heavy pressure exerted by the multinational company Ciba-Geigy and the governments of the United States and Canada, this type of maize has not yet been licenced for cultivation in any European Union country.

The reasons given for the French ban seem particularly significant to the author of this question because they confirm that scientific research cannot establish for certain what the long-term effects of cultivating this type of seed on the land will be. Will the Commission therefore give precise details of its position and of the proven scientific data available on the subject, with a view to reassuring the public, which is extremely worried and confused about this issue?

Answer given by Mrs Bjerregaard on behalf of the Commission

(10 June 1997)

On 5 February 1997 France issued Ciba-Geigy (recently renamed Novartis) with a consent in accordance with the Commission Decision of 23 January 1997 concerning the placing on the market of the genetically modified maize notified by Ciba Geigy ( 1 ). The product has been cleared taking into account that this maize will be used like any other maize variety. However, both the Commission Decision and the consent issued by France are without prejudice to other relevant Community legislation such as Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms ( 2 ) which deals only with aspects related to the protection of the environment and human health.

Therefore, the consent given under Directive 90/220/EEC for this maize is without prejudice to other additional consents required for the marketing of maize seeds for cultivation. In particular, marketing of maize seeds for cultivation is only possible if the relevant variety has been accepted for inclusion at least in a national catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species, according to the provisions of Directive 70/457/EEC ( 3 ), with subsequent listing in the common catalogue of varieties with a view to free marketing throughout the Community. The maize seed may not be placed on the market unless it has been officially certified as ‘basic seed’ or ‘certified seed’.