'New GMO directive provides necessary legal framework to complex issue'

The European Commission says that with the directive, it has listened to the concerns of many European citizens, reflected in the positions expressed by their national governments

 
By Kiran Pandey
Last Updated: Wednesday 14 October 2015 | 06:55:16 AM

European lawmakers have rejected a proposal that would have allowed countries to restrict or ban use of imported GM crops with EU approval (Photo: Thinkstock)

How have companies reacted to this decision by 16 EU countries and four other regions?

A total of 19 Member States have submitted demands for the exclusion of their territory (or part of their territory) from the geographical scope of already authorised, or pending applications for GMO cultivation (option 1), by October 3 which was the deadline to submit demands under the transitional measures.

The Member States are Latvia, Greece, France, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Netherlands, Belgium (for the region of Wallonia), Poland, Lithuania, UK (for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), Cyprus, Germany (except for research), Bulgaria, Italy, Denmark (for the 4 GMOs with EFSA opinion), Slovenia, Luxembourg (for the 4 GMOs with EFSA opinion) and Malta.

Member States’ demands and their outcome can be found on DG SANTE’s website: http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/gmo/new/authorisation/cultivation/geographical_scope_en.htm

The requests have been or are being communicated to the companies, which have one month to react.

The number of requests that the Commission has received so far by Member States, confirms that the new directive provides a necessary legal framework to a complex issue. It allows them 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.

The current directive retains a strong risk assessment and authorisation system for GMOs guaranteeing a high and uniform level of safety throughout the EU. With the directive on GMO cultivation, the Commission had listened to the concerns of many European citizens, reflected in the positions expressed by their national governments.

As the number of requests from Member States show, national governments are now using this legislation to have a greater say on cultivation on the respective territories. The EU’s scientific assessment remains one of the most stringent in the world.

(Also read the counterview of EuropaBio, an industry association'Failing to support GM crops single most damaging element for growth')

Are any GMOs being cultivated in the EU?

Yes. One GM maize—MON810—is commercially cultivated in the EU. This product's genetic modification aims to protect the crop against a harmful pest—the European corn borer. It was authorised in 1998.

MON810 is cultivated in 5 Member States with a total coverage (in 2013) of almost 150,000 hectares (including 137,000 hectares in Spain). That's less than 1.5 per cent of the total EU maize surface. GMOs were cultivated on 175 million hectares worldwide in 2013 (mostly soya, maize, oilseed rape and cotton). For the record: in 2010, a GM starch potato, known as "Amflora" potato, was authorised for cultivation and industrial processing in the EU. It is no longer authorised in the EU.

There are eight pending applications for GMO cultivation in the EU, including renewal of MON810 authorisation. Four have had a positive EFSA opinion; four are awaiting an EFSA opinion.

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