ANALYSIS - Strict EU regulations on GM crops became a little less so yesterday as MEPs agreed to give Member States the right to ban the growing of GM crops that have been approved as safe, writes Gemma Hyland.
The new legislation gives EU Member States the ability to decide whether or not to allow farmers to plant a particular GMO or groups of GMO crops that have passed a rigorous safety assessment to gain EU-wide regulatory approval.
The ruling was approved at second reading by 480 votes to 159, with 58 abstentions.
Currently, only one GM crop - insect-resistant maize MON 810 from Monsanto - is grown in the EU. However, some countries - Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg and Poland - adopted safeguard clauses to prohibit its cultivation on their territories.
The key features of the new rules are:
- Member states can restrict or prohibit the cultivation of any approved GMO or a group of GMOs defined by crop or trait
- Bans can be justified using a list of grounds: Specifically environmental policy; town and country planning; land use; socio-economic impacts; avoidance of GMO presence in other products; agricultural policy; or public policy
- Mandatory coexistence measures must be put in place in border areas of Member States in which GMOs are grown to avoid cross-border contamination into those where cultivation is prohibited, unless the geographical conditions render such measures unnecessary
- The Commission will report on ‘the actual remediation of environmental damages due to the cultivation of GMOs in Member States’ within 4 years
The amended Directive is expected to be adopted this Spring.
Member states could also ban GMO crops on other 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.
The Soil Association is worried that in countries that decide to allow GM crops, the EU’s decision will fail to protect GM-free farming, which will be left to decisions made by national governments.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director said: “The rights of farmers who do not wish to grow GM crops, particularly in England are under threat by this proposal.
"Indeed, the entire organic sector, growing rapidly in Europe and which may double by 2020, is in danger – as are the rights of anyone who wants to buy GM free foods."