EU health commissioner Tonio Borg intends to prioritise discussions with key European member states about permissible grounds for banning cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in individual countries, according to a spokesperson for the commissioner.
The European Commission drafted a proposal in 2010 to allow individual member states the right to decide whether or not to allow cultivation of GM crops within their borders on grounds other than environment and health concerns. But this proposal has remained under discussion and, so far, no progress has been made.
Frederic Vincent, spokesperson for Borg, told FoodNavigator that the commissioner intends to enter discussions with key member states, such as the UK, Germany and France, as a matter of priority, to see whether an agreement can be reached.
If the proposal were to become law, all GM crops would still need to go through safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority, and EU approval, only after which member states would be able to allow, restrict or ban their cultivation at national level.
Eight countries have already taken decisions to block cultivation of GM for specific scientific reasons, which are the only grounds allowed under the current system. Most recently, Poland’s Ministry of Agriculture cited concerns that GM crops could cross-pollinate with non-GM crops, and that pollen from Monsanto’s NK810 maize could find its way into honey.
Vincent added that media reports of a ‘freeze’ on new GM crop approvals until 2014 were misleading.
Seven crops are currently awaiting authorisation for approval, six maize varieties and one soybean variety. The Commission had not yet decided whether to launch the authorisation process, he said.
“This is indeed not foreseen in the very near future, but it is untrue to say that it is frozen until 2014,” he said.
Currently, two GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are approved for cultivation in Europe – Monsanto’s MON810 corn, and BASF’s Amflora potato. Several other GMO crops are not approved for cultivation but can be imported into Europe, and unintentional presence of GMOs is tolerated at a level of up to 0.9% in other crops.