EU: New rules allowing flexibility for countries to ban GMO crops

05 December, 2014

New legislation to allow EU member states to restrict, or ban, the cultivation of crops containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on their own territory, even if it is allowed at EU level, were agreed by Parliament and Council delegations on Wednesday night.

"The agreement reached last night on the directive, which goes into effect spring 2015, will ensure more flexibility for member states who wish to restrict the cultivation of the GMOs in their country. It will, moreover, signpost a debate which is far from over between pro- and anti-GMO positions”.

“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," said Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) who is steering the legislation through Parliament.

"This agreement was long overdue and we welcome this result, if confirmed by the Council and the House. Member states wishing to restrict or ban GMOs would now have the possibility to do so, without facing the risk of being taken to court. It is important to let the member states take a decision in full subsidiarity, and to listen to our citizens, who, in certain member states, refuse to have GMOs forced upon them", said Environment Committee Chair Giovanni La Via.

The approved text would entitle member states to pass legally binding acts restricting or prohibiting the cultivation of GMO crops even after they have been authorised at EU level.

The new rules would allow member states to ban GMOs stating environmental policy objectives as a justification. These objectives would relate to environmental impacts other than the risks to health and environment assessed during the scientific risk assessment. Bans could also include groups of GMOs designated by crop or trait.

Member states should also ensure that GMO crops do not contaminate other products, and particular attention should be paid to preventing cross-border contamination with neighbouring countries, the agreement says.

The informal agreement is to be discussed in the member states’ Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) on 10 December and still needs to be backed by Parliament’s Environment Committee and the full House, as well as member states. The legislation is expected to be voted in plenary in January 2015.