Wednesday

19th Jun 2019

EU agriculture ministers pummel GMO opt-out plan

  • How will member states know if a GMO is used in food, if they can't prevent its import? (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

EU agriculture ministers were almost unanimous on Monday (13 July) in expressing their scepticism about a European Commission proposal to give individual member states the power to ban the use of genetically modified (GM) ingredients in human and animal food.

Minister after minister at a meeting in Brussels criticised the commission's proposal as incomplete, impractical, or unnecessary.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“The proposal has created more questions than provided solutions”, said German deputy food and agriculture minister Robert Kloos, adding the proposed GM opt-out “is neither practical nor legally sound”.

His British colleague, George Eustice, said he did not understand how the proposed powers could work “in practice” without violating internal market rules.

“It's not useful, it's impracticable, and it's likely to bring a large majority against it”, said French diplomat Alexis Dutertre on behalf of his minister.

In what was one of the few compliments for food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis that afternoon, Austrian minister Andra Rupprechter told him: “You have done your best to defend this indefensible proposal.”

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can only be imported into the EU if they have an EU-wide stamp of approval. The commission grants those permits based on a scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), and a vote by member states.

However, GMOs are such a divisive issue in Europe that countries rarely reach a qualified majority in favour or opposed to the authorisation of one.

EU rules state that in that case the commission takes the decision, which in practice means it also takes the public flak with GMOs a highly controversial topic in some member states.

The commission has argued that it would be more democratic if individual member states could ban the use of a GMO, even if it has been approved on EU level.

“The idea here is to pass the buck to member states”, said Dutertre.

Ministers also raised questions about how the proposals would be implemented. While the plan would give countries the power to ban the use of GMOs, they would not be able to stop their import because of EU single market rules.

“How are we supposed to enforce this? When will I know that a GMO is being transported through my country? This is a purely practical question, which shows that [the proposal] is unworkable”, said Dutch minister Sharon Dijksma.

“I would like to see more arguments from the commission on how they see the practical possibilities to prove that a restriction is in line with EU law and trade commitments”, noted Lithuanian minister Virginija Baltraitiene.

“We need to have clarification of the term 'use'. It needs to have the same meaning through out the EU”, added her Greek colleague deputy minister Evangelos Apostolou.

Many ministers asked why the commission did not provide an impact assessment of the proposal.

But Andriukaitis said that it was “neither possible nor relevant” to assess the proposal's impact, because it depends “on many factors that cannot be anticipated, such as how many member states will use the provisions”.

The European Parliament has also strongly criticised the proposal, making it highly unlikely that the plan will make it into law.

Nevertheless, after receiving his verbal pounding, Andriukaitis tried once more to persuade member states that the proposal “better fits with your genuine needs” than the status quo.

“Should you choose not to support this approach, the commission would have no choice but to continue to authorise GMOs found safe by Efsa, to fulfil its legal obligation … I appeal to ministers once again to engage on constructive discussion on this legislative proposal”, he added.

EU to return GMO powers to states

The EU commission has proposed giving member states the power to ban the use of GMOs in human and animal food products, but there are already concerns about whether the plans are workable.

Agriculture MEPs call for rejection of GMO plan

A majority in the agriculture committee voted “to propose rejection of the Commission proposal” that would give member states the power to ban the use of genetically modified food.

MEPs reject Commission plan on GMO opt-outs

Food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis failed to convince the European Parliament. 579 of 751 MEPs voted to ask the Commission to withdraw the legislative proposal, which it refused to do.

News in Brief

  1. House prices up by 15 percent in EU since 2010
  2. China 'most trade-restrictive partner' for the EU
  3. EU court rules against German highway toll for non-residents
  4. French most sceptical on safety of vaccines
  5. Facebook 'currency' met with scepticism in Europe
  6. New socialist group leader to push for Timmermans
  7. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  8. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal

Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'

Following an investigation into the Dieselgate scandal, the European Parliament recommended a single commissioner should be responsible for both air quality and setting industrial standards. But only the Greens want to commit to carry out that advice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. What's going on in Moldova - and what next?
  2. EU officials prepare for US extravaganza on Palestine
  3. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction
  4. Frontex transparency dispute goes to EU court
  5. Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans
  6. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  7. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  8. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us