On Friday the European Commission confirmed that 16 member states had requested to opt out but had said that the number could rise ahead of the 3 October deadline.
Commission spokesperson for health and food safety, Enrico Brivio, said the number of opt-out requests confirmed that the Directive provided a necessary legal framework to a complex issue.
“It allows member states to listen to the concerns of many European citizens and have the final say on whether or not GMOs can be cultivated on their territory, in order to better take into account their national context,” he said, adding that the a high and level of safety would be guaranteed throughout the union thanks to strong risk assessment process.
All the requests have now been forwarded to the GM companies which have one month to react.
Environmental campaigners, scientists and biotech companies have expressed mixed feelings over the opt-out system.