EU opinion over genetically modified (GM) food and crops has been one of the hottest debates of the last decade. Certain EU states, such as the UK, are swayed in favour of the technology, while others like France are resistant.
The issues have resurfaced in the last year, partly as solutions have been offered to the problem of ensuring food security for a growing world population whilst reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment. GM is proposed as a solution on one extreme, and organic farming at the other.
Environment ministers were asked yesterday to vote on a Commission proposal that would force the countries to lift their bans on farmers growing Mon 810 maize, developed and sold by Monsanto.
A qualified majority (282 votes out of 345) were against the move, even though the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has given its opinion that Mon 810 is safe, and it is presently authorised for EU cultivation. This is the forth time the question over Hungary and Austria has been put to ministerial vote.
Environment groups have welcomed the vote, and the French are seeing it outcome as a good sign given that their national ban (and that of Greece) is up for a similar vote in the spring.
However the biotech industry has responded with dismay, asking: “Why make tough laws on GMOs and then break them?”
Nathalie Moll, executive director of green biotechnology at EuropaBio said: “It is incomprehensible that some member states choose to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence as to the safety of these GM products and the commercial reality of their safe growth and consumption for more than a decade across the world.”
GM critics argue that the full effects of the technology will not be seen on human and environmental health for yet more decades to come.
Moll also drew relevance from the vote for the acceptability of GM crops in the face of tightening food security, calling GM crops “a key tool for increasing food production, to offset the potential of food price rises, while simultaneously reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment”.