Agriculture

More than half of EU nations decide to go against GM crops cultivation

The development is a big set-back to major multinationals including Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer and they have 30 days to inform whether they agree

 
By Kiran Pandey
Last Updated: Monday 05 October 2015
Credit: Orin Hargraves, Flickr
Credit: Orin Hargraves, Flickr Credit: Orin Hargraves, Flickr

Sixteen out of 28 European Union (EU) member states including France and Germany have formally notified and registered with the European Commission, their intention to ban genetically modified (GM) crop cultivation under new EU rules. Germany is the largest EU nation to opt out and had announced the decision on September 30. The applications to opt-out were filed as the deadline for registration ended on October 3.

The nations have made use of the EU-approved “opt-out law” that allows individual member states to restrict or prohibit imported GM crops—even if they have been approved by the bloc as a whole. On March 11, 2015, the European Parliament had signed the new law on growing GM crops in the European Union, clearing the way for new strains to be approved after years of deadlock.

16 EU countries and 4 regions opt-out. This represents over 65 per cent of the EU’s population and 65 per cent of its arable land.

16 Nations

Austria

Croatia

Cyprus

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Latvia

Lithuania

Netherland

Poland

Bulgaria

Denmark

 Italy

Luxembourg

Slovenia

Four administrative regions

         
Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland  (In UK) Wallonia (In Belgium)  

Environmentalists have hailed the news. Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said, “A majority of the EU nations don’t trust EU safety assessments and are rightly taking action to protect their agriculture and food. The only way to restore trust in the EU system now is for the Commission to hit the pause button on GM crop approvals and to urgently reform safety testing and the approval system.”

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, “There has never been a clearer signal that GM-crops, and the companies that make them, are not wanted in Europe. The technology is not only risky, it's redundant. People, and the governments that represent them, are rejecting them outright.”

Europe has divided opinions on GM crops, which are widely grown in the Americas and Asia. Monsanto's maize MON810, which is grown in Spain and Portugal, is the only GM crop currently present in the EU.

Environmental risk assessment of GMOs in EU and the debate: the timeline (2008-2015)

  • 9 Dec. 2008: EU ministers allow member states to establish GMO-free zones
  • 15 April 2009: EU environment ministers including German Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner opposed GM crop cultivation by ordering a ban on Monsanto's MON 810 maize, despite European rulings that the biotech grain is safe. 
  • 25 June 2009: Recognising environmental risks related to the cultivation of genetically modified organisms, Austria submitted a note to the EU environment ministers and called for an opt-out clause to be introduced to related EU legislation to allow individual member states to decide on cultivation
  • 3 Sept. 2009: In Political guidelines for the next Commission José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission proposed Community authorisation system, based on science, with freedom for Member States to decide whether or not they wish to cultivate GM crops on their territory.
  • 2 March 2010: EU authorised the cultivation in the EU of genetically modified (GM) crop Amflora (a genetically-modified potato) for the first time since 1998 (Link:
  • 13 July 2010: EU roadmap for GM crop cultivation  proposed an overhaul of the policy for approving GM crops that granted countries more freedom to ban cultivation on their territory while retaining an EU-wide authorisation system
  • 13 Dec. 2013: General Court of the European Union overturned a decision by the European Commission to allow the cultivation and sale of Amflora, the genetically modified potato

The companies that have declared their intention to plant GM crops in these countries, have 30 days to respond and inform whether they agree. If the companies reject the demand, the nations have a second chance to impose the ban—they have to present once again their reasoned statement, under another directive, pointing at reasons of significant public interest—for instance, related to the policies in the spheres of environmental protection, agriculture, or social and economic consequences

Meanwhile, the opt-outs are certainly a big set-back to major biotechnology multinationals including Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer.

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