Parliament backs GMO opt-out for EU member states

Schnappschuss (2015-01-28 11.10.17)New legislation to allow EU member states to restrict or ban the cultivation of GMO crops on their own territory, even if this is allowed at EU level, was passed by MEPs on 13 January 2014. The legislation, informally agreed by Parliament and Council in December, was originally tabled in 2010 but was then deadlocked for four years due to disagreement between pro- and anti-GMO member states, according to the European Parliament.

“This agreement will ensure more flexibility for member states who wish to restrict the cultivation of the GMOs in their territory. It will, moreover, signpost a debate which is far from over between pro- and anti-GMO positions” said Frédérique Ries (ALDE, Belgium), who is steering the legislation through Parliament. “As to what comes next, I place my trust in Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s formal pledge to strengthen the democratic process on GMOs in Europe and ensure that research is genuinely independent”. The agreement negotiated with EU ministers was approved by 480 votes to 159, with 58 abstentions.

Schnappschuss (2015-01-28 11.14.35)The new rules would allow member states to ban GMOs on environmental policy grounds other than the risks to health and the environment already assessed by the European Food Safety Authority. Member states could also ban GMO crops on grounds such as town and country planning requirements, socio-economic impact, avoiding the unintended presence of GMOs in other products and farm policy objectives. Bans could also include groups of GMOs designated by crop or trait. Before a member state may adopt such measures, the legislation provides for a procedure enabling the GMO crop company to consent to such restrictions on its marketing authorisation. However, if the company disagrees, the member state may impose a ban unilaterally. The new legislation will come into force in spring 2015. More information is available here.

The German Environment Ministry is insisting on a complete ban on genetic engineering in Germany, EurActiv reports. An assessment from the Bundestag’s Green Party faction sees the GMO ban as being threatened by free trade agreements the EU is planning with Canada (CETA) and the United States (TTIP). Green MEP Martin Häusling (picture) said he considers the compromise in the European Parliament a “Trojan Horse”: “The European Parliament had a chance at binding, clear and EU-wide rules for the approval of genetically modified plants… These rules will make cultivation of genetically modified plants in the EU easier and lead to a European patchwork on the approval of genetically modified plants. That runs the risk of further spreading genetically modified material, such as on a transport route through EU countries that have indicated clear opposition to this agricultural technology.” More information is available here.