Under current EU rules, genetically modified crops can be grown anywhere within the European Union after approval by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA), but member states previously have demanded stronger rights to block crops, or devolution of powers to approve cultivation to nation states. Several countries have attempted to use emergency measures to block the cultivation of genetically modified crops, but such moves have been challenged by the EU and industry.
After today’s vote, however, any EU member state will be able to restrict or ban the growing of crops containing genetically modified organisms on their own territory even if it is allowed at EU level.
The Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI committee) voted to amend the position agreed last June by ministers, which, according to campaigners including Greenpeace, was ‘riddled’ with legal holes and went against the Parliament’s earlier vote. MEPs voted to remove a previously backed idea of a phase of negotiations with the GMO company, and supported plans to allow member states to ban GMO crops on environmental grounds.
"This vote shows we have secured a broad consensus between the political groups in the European Parliament on this sensitive issue," said Frédérique Ries, who is steering the legislation through Parliament.
"The measures approved today will secure flexibility for member states to restrict, ban the cultivation of GMO crops if they so wish. At the same time, we have secured a clear process for the authorization of GMOs at EU level, with improved safeguards and a key role for the European Food Safety Authority, which is important for us" she added.
The approved rules will entitle member states to pass legally binding acts restricting or prohibiting the cultivation of GMO crops after they have been authorised at EU level, and will allow member states to request that the geographical scope of future authorisations are altered when new GM crops are being assessed at the EU level.
Commenting on the outcome of the vote, Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director said the EU Parliament has ‘radically improved’ the wording of the text that will be adopted by the Council - which he suggested had initially been heavily influenced ‘by the UK government pro-GM stance.’
“Today’s vote would give European countries a legally solid right to ban GM cultivation in their territory, making it difficult for the biotech industry to challenge such bans,” he said.