Member states back national bans for GM crops

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

The previous status quo allowed crops to be grown anywhere in Europe following EU approval, although only one GM crop, Monsanto maize variety MON810, is grown commercially in the EU.
The previous status quo allowed crops to be grown anywhere in Europe following EU approval, although only one GM crop, Monsanto maize variety MON810, is grown commercially in the EU.

Related tags: European union, Gm

EU member states have voted to allow national governments to ban or restrict cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops even when approved at EU level, meaning the new rules will be written into law.

The law will allow member states to cite environmental policy objectives as a reason for banning GM crops in their territory. These would relate to environmental impacts other than risks to health and environment evaluated during the European Food Safety Authority’s scientific risk assessment.

“This new law is a massive opportunity for national governments to shut the door on biotech crops in Europe,”​ saidMute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “Countries should now ban all GM maize crops and follow the wishes of the majority of their citizens to move farming in a greener direction.”

Friends of the Earth Europe also called on the Commission to develop better democratic procedures for GM crop authorisation and urged it not to view the new law as unrestricted permission to authorise a raft of new GM crops.

‘Arbitrary and non-scientific reasons’

However, the European Association for Bioindustries, EuropaBio called the vote a step backwards for the EU, saying it failed to support the EU’s best science and would damage growth, innovation, investment and consumer confidence.

“It enables Member States to formally reject safe EU approved products, based on arbitrary and non-scientific reasons. Europe is already lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to GM crop cultivation, denying our farmers the freedom to choose,”​ said Beat Späth, the association’s director of agricultural biotechnology.

“The EU should focus now on unblocking the traffic jam of 13 safety-assessed GM products for import, which are currently waiting for Commission approval. Without these imports EU livestock farming would collapse and the price of meat produced in the EU would increase. The GM products should be authorised without any further delay​.”

Governments with a pro-GM stance, like those of the UK and Spain, hope the new rules will speed authorisation of new crops, while others, including Germany, France and Austria, will be able to ban GM crop cultivation without being challenged in court.

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