EU environment ministers have rejected a compromise proposal from Denmark that bid to break the deadlock over the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe.
The politicians debated the new rules at the EU Council’s Environment meeting last Friday in an attempt to try and resolve the current stalemate over the authorisation of such crops.
EU member states are split over GM crops, with some countries calling for them to be banned and others urging the Commission to boost crop approvals.
And a blocking minority, which included members states such as France, Germany and Belgium, prevented the concessionary deal from going through, a source for the EU council told FoodNavgiator this morning.
Bid to unblock approvals impasse
The European Commission introduced new rules in 2010 in an attempt to unblock EU decision-making on GM approvals, which had reached an impasse - only two GM varieties had been allowed to be grown in the block in over 12 years.
Denmark currently holds the presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers and the aim of its proposal was to provide a legal basis for member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory.
But countries wishing to ban GM crops had to devise reasons for doing so other than those already addressed by the harmonised set of EU rules, which take into account the health and environmental risks that growing GMOs may pose.
However, some member states suggested it would be extremely challenging to devise possible reasons beyond health and environmental ones.
In addition, said the EU council spokersperson, there was not enough in the compromise text to reassure certain member states regarding the free circulation of goods within the EU.
Bilateral approach next step
The EU council source said the Danish presidency, which has made this issue a priority, will now engage various member states in bilateral talks to try and achieve a breakthrough over the cultivation of GM crops before the next Council meeting in June.
Pete Riley, campaign director of GM Freeze, said: “Clearly many member states remain concerned that the Danish text did not provide the legal certainty required to invoke GM cultivation bans, and others were not convinced the proposals were in harmony with the internal market."
He said that the group welcomes the outcome of Friday's debate, claiming that it gives member states the opportunity to strengthen the proposals to ensure countries who wish to ban GM crops have a clear, legally sound basis for doing so.
"Any proposal must address the need to protect farmers, growers and beekeeper from GM contamination in countries permitting GM cultivation, including placing strict liability for all harm on the companies that market GM seed. We welcome the principle that countries should be able to decide what they grow and eat, particularly as the majority of citizens remain opposed to the introduction of GMOs,” added Riley.
BASF pulls GM plug
In January this year, ingredients and chemicals giant, BASF, announced it was pulling the plug on its European operations in genetically modified plant development due to a lack of acceptance in the market.
The German company said it would relocate the headquarters of its BASF Plant Science group from Limburgerhof in Germany to Raleigh in the US.
The company added that its development and commercialisation of all GM products targeted solely at cultivation in the European market will be halted – these include four varieties of potato and one of wheat.
“We are convinced that plant biotechnology is a key technology for the 21st century. However, there is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe – from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians,” said Dr Stefan Marcinowski, a member of the BASF board of executive directors, responsible for plant biotechnology.