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31 March 2013 Edition

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Health protection reports look at tobacco products and GM crops

‘While there are obviously potential benefits to be derived from the bio-economy, we must ensure that we do not misuse its application’

THE European Parliament is considering a number of reports that that could have far-reaching effects on legislation for public health, including smoking and tobacco products, and bio-economics and GM crops.

Martina Anderson is Shadow Rapporteur on the EU Environmental Committee and she is working to ensure that public health is at the centre of two particular reports.

One is on the effects of proposed bio-economy issues, the other on the Tobacco Products Directive.

Both these reports have potential ramifications for public health if proper safeguards are not incorporated in any legislation that may flow from either report, the Irish MEP says.

“While I appreciate the hard work put into the reports by the lead Rapporteur, I do however have some reservations with his and the Commission’s approach to areas that could have adverse public health impacts.

page 25 bCountless surveys have found that there is no appetite amongst EU citizens for Genetically Modified (GM) crops

“In the sphere of bio-economics and with an ever increasing world population (due to hit a staggering 9 billion by 2050) and a rapid decline in our planet’s finite natural resources and environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels, we should of course be looking to viable clean alternatives. What we should not be doing is going for just any alternative without rigorous research into any adverse effects on public health.

“Tackling the projected rise in population and correlating rise in food demand should not be used as an excuse to plunge head-first into Genetically Modified (GM) technologies which have yet to be proven 100% safe. Countless surveys have found that there is no appetite amongst EU citizens for GM crops.”

Before encouraging food production based on this bio-technology, much more research needs undertaken into its potential impact on the health of citizens, Martina Anderson says. Food safety must be the priority, she insists.

The Derry MEP fears that an over-reliance on bio-technology in agriculture could reduce bio-diversity and lead to greater susceptibility to disease and increased dependence on the patents of large, profit-driven agri-business companies.

“The Earth’s biological resources should not be targeted solely on the markets they can create,” Martina Anderson says. “While there are obviously potential benefits to be derived from the bio-economy, we must ensure that we do not misuse its application.”

page 25 a70% of smokers start before the age of 18

On the Tobacco Products Directive, Martina will be working with members to get a strong and effective directive in place before the end of the current mandate.

The Irish MEP notes that, after years of deliberations, the European Commission last year finally adopted proposals to revise its Tobacco Products Directive.

The proposed legislation consists of new and strengthened rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold. More specifically, it bans the use of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) and smokeless products with character-changing flavours and makes the use of large pictorial health warnings mandatory on cigarettes and RYO.

The proposals include measures for products that were not specifically regulated so far, such as e-cigarettes and herbal products for smoking. Chewing and nasal tobacco will also be subject to specific labelling and ingredient regulations and the existing ban on oral tobacco (snus) will be maintained.

“I support the call from the Smoke Free Partnership that standardised plain packaging for tobacco products should be made mandatory. Plain packaging means that all cigarette packs would look the same, packaged in a standard shape without any branding, design or logo.”

Martina Anderson adds:

“With 70% of smokers starting before the age of 18 and over 2,000 people a year in the North of Ireland and 2,000 a day in the EU dying from tobacco-related chronic diseases, this is a problem area that requires robust enforceable regulation.

“Industry vested interests must not be allowed to influence or dilute the actions that are required to comprehensively tackle the use of this killer product.”

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