Sunday

19th Nov 2017

EU ministers agree rules allowing choice on GM crops

  • Monsanto's MON810 maize is primarily grown in Spain (Photo: European Commission)

A political agreement on genetically modified (GM) crops by EU environment ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday (12 June) has sparked protest from both pro-green NGOs and biotech companies.

The agreement breaks a deadlock on a four-year old EU legislative proposal on GM crop cultivation. Twenty-six ministers backed the agreement, while two abstained.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The bill aims to set up a legal basis for member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs that have been authorised or are under authorisation at the EU level.

"This new system is going to guarantee a choice for all states. Nothing will be imposed," said French Environment Minister Segolene Royal, reports Reuters, with France being one of the strong opponents of GM foods.

But Brussels-based Friends of the Earth Europe described the agreement as “a poisoned chalice” in favour of GM crops manufactured by biotech companies like US firm Monsanto and Swiss-based Syngenta.

The NGO says the bill would give the companies the legal right to decide whether a national ban should be allowed.

“It is unacceptable that companies like Monsanto will be given the first say in any decision to ban their products,” said Mute Schimpf, a food expert at the NGO.

She noted governments should not have to ask the permission to ban unwanted GM crops from the companies who profit from them.

“If this law is passed, more GM crops could be allowed in Europe, dramatically increasing the risk of contamination of our food and farming,” she added.

But a spokesperson at Monsanto said the NGO’s concern the bill would entitle a company to push GM crops into a member state is false.

“This claim that companies would have a veto over whether or not the member states would be allowed to ban something is ludicrous,” said Brandon Mitchener.

Mitchener said the proposal gives member states that oppose GM cultivation the ability to restrict or prohibit cultivation of GM crops based on non-scientific grounds.

“This decision would be tragic-comic if it didn’t send such a bad signal to the rest of the world that it’s okay to ignore science and ban things for populist purposes,” he said.

Mitchener says Monsanto, in any case, has no intention of introducing new GM seeds into Europe.

The company already sells and manufactures a genetically modified maize known as MON810. The maize contains a bug-killing protein sold and used primarily in Spain.

“We have nothing else left and no interest in bringing any GM seeds [to the EU] any time soon,” said Mitchener.

At the moment, member states can only use safeguard clauses to ban cultivation based on risk.

But the Luxembourg agreement, if adopted following negotiations with the upcoming European Parliament, would extend the legal possibilities for member states on planting GM crops.

National authorities, for instance, would be able to reject GM cultivation for environmental reasons, socioeconomic reasons, land use and town planning, agricultural policy objectives and public policy issues.

Shipments of GM crops across the EU, even if banned in one member state, would be allowed in order not to disrupt the internal market.

The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) would determine whether or not a GM seed is safe for cultivation. The agency, in the past, has clashed with pro-transparency campaigners and with the European Court of Auditors, the EU’s financial watchdog, for being too close to the industry.

However, a member state can still reject planting an Efsa approved GM seed under new a two-step procedure but under certain conditions.

"Those who do not want to cultivate can first try a geographic exclusion using the commission as an intermediary with the company which applied, if that does not succeed, they have a right to opt-out under certain grounds, so it's a not carte blache," EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg told reporters in Luxembourg.

GMO maize vote highlights 'absurd' EU rules

The EU commission is set to authorise the cultivation of a genetically modified maize crop, despite opposition from 19 countries: Critics say it showcases "absurd" EU voting rules.

MEPs allow national bans on GM crops

MEPs say member states should have the right to ban genetically modified crops from their territory even if the EU has already approved their cultivation.

Meat 'taboo' debated at Bonn climate summit

Animal agriculture is responsible for a significant share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, but until recently it 'was an issue that was really brushed under the carpet'.

Meat 'taboo' debated at Bonn climate summit

Animal agriculture is responsible for a significant share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, but until recently it 'was an issue that was really brushed under the carpet'.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse