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16th Jul 2018

EU in 'no rush' to finalise GM food opt-outs

  • Citizens in some member states are very opposed to GMOs, but their governments are critical of a plan to have the power to ban them because they think it will not work in practice (Photo: William Murphy)

A much-criticised European Commission proposal to give power to member states to ban the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as food ingredients is not expected to be endorsed by national governments any time soon.

After agriculture ministers almost unanimously denounced the plan last July, there appears to be little appetite to debate it again before the commission provides reassurance that the plan would not distort the EU's internal market.

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“We don't see at this point in time any use in putting it on the agenda, given the situation and the opinion of the member states,” a source close to the EU Council presidency said on Thursday (11 February).

The source spoke about the Dutch presidency's work programme for the first half of 2016. The council presidency rotates among EU members every six months.

“If by any chance we see an opportunity, we'll continue with it, but as far as it stands now, we don't see that this situation has arisen yet,” the source said.

Following last year's critical evaluation by ministers, most of whom said that the plan was incomplete, impractical, or unnecessary, the commission was requested to provide answers to the many questions ministers had. Ministers also asked the commission to draw up an impact assessment.

'Serious mistake'

The commission's legal services are currently in that process, and there is “no deadline” by which the questions must be answered, according to a commission source.

The objective is “to provide solid answers” rather than speedy ones, the source said. “We are not under pressure for time.”

The topic is not on the official agenda for next Monday's meeting of agriculture ministers in Brussels.

That day will mark the 300th day since the commission published the plan, which would allow countries to ban the use of GMOs in human and animal food, even if these GMOs are approved at a European level.

The European Parliament rejected the proposal last October with MEPs describing it as a “serious mistake”, “shoddy work”, and posing a “risk of undermining the single market”.

A large majority told the commission it should withdraw its plan, which can only be adopted if both the parliament and governments agree to it.

But commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas on Thursday rejected the suggestion that it was time for the commission to withdraw the proposal.

“This is a commission proposal that has to be discussed. We don't have a habit of withdrawing proposals before they even are discussed,” he noted. “The inter-institutional process is under way.”

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.

EU agriculture ministers pummel GMO opt-out plan

The EU commission wants to give countries the power to ban GMOs. “It's not useful, it's impracticable, and it's likely to bring a large majority against it”, was one reaction.

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.

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