Thursday

21st Mar 2019

EU states to discuss 'reasons' for national GMO bans

  • Europe has remained deadlocked over GMO cultivation for years (Photo: European Commission)

EU environment ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (14 March) will discuss a list of possible reasons why individual member states could opt to ban the cultivation of genetically-modified crops in future.

"Public morals", "public order" and "cultural policy" are among the options listed in a European Commission working document, seen by this website.

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 paper builds on a commission proposal last July to partially renationalise decisions over GMO cultivation, after years of deadlock in the area.

Under the proposal, the EU would continue to approve GMO cultivation along environmental and human health lines, after which member states could then opt to ban a particular crop, based on a different set of criteria.

The plan has met with considerable opposition however, with France and Germany concerned that it could result in the fragmentation of the EU's internal market, as well as run into trouble with the World Trade Organisation. Governments have also pressed the commission to provide details of the criteria they could use when deciding on a ban, with debate on the subject now set for Monday.

Under a "public morals" option, the commission suggests religious, philosophical and ethical concerns are all potential reasons for a national ban.

Efforts to preserve organic and conventional farming systems could lead member states to invoke the avoidance of "GMO presence in other products" as a reason, says the working paper. "Social policy objectives" include the preservation of certain farming types to maintain jobs, while member states could also cite reasons of "cultural policy".

"General environmental policy objectives" such as the maintenance of landscape features and certain habitats, is also listed as a possible option. This differs from the environmental criteria currently used at the EU-level by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which looks at issues such as toxicity and the impact on micro-organisms.

Member states could use one or a combination of these reasons, suggests the commission.

"However the sole invocation ... will not be sufficient to meet the scrutiny of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The measure should be justified, proportionate and non discriminatory," states the working paper.

Environmental groups argue that member states opting for a national ban under these options would be vulnerable to future legal challenges. "We believe that the commission's July proposal must give member states the right to invoke health and [all] environmental reasons, otherwise this debate is going to run on even longer," Greenpeace director of agriculture Marco Contiero told EUobserver.

At present, the commission authorises GMO cultivation on the basis of an opinion from EFSA, a controversial body whose views have sometimes clashed with national scientific advice. As a result, certain countries including Austria, France and Hungary have imposed temporary "safeguard" measures to prevent EU-approved crops from being cultivated within their borders.

"The commission has failed to act as a risk manager," said Mr Contiero. "The proposal is meant to give member states the right to ban GMOs but in reality it doesn't because it maintains EFSA at the heart of the decision-making process."

Diplomats concede that a large number of questions still need answering. "Our aim is to keep this proposal alive," said a Hungarian EU presidency official on Thursday.

Anti-GMO states including Hungary, Austria and Greece support the commission's proposal as a way to impose permanent national bans. The Netherlands supports it as a way of clearing the road for GMO cultivation, but many other states are seeking further clarifications.

EU imposes stiff controls to block Chinese GM rice

EU member states have slapped rigid new controls on all imports of Chinese rice products in the wake of ever-increasing detection of products 'contaminated' with unauthorised genetically modified rice.

EUobserved

Schoolkid 'climate strikers' outnumber MEPs at debate

In response to the now worldwide movement of concerned school children, the EU parliament held a debate about climate change. But those pupils attending were not allowed to speak, only to listen.

News in Brief

  1. EPP proposes suspension for Orban's Fidesz
  2. May asks for Brexit extension until 30 June
  3. Juncker: Brexit decision unlikely this week
  4. North Macedonia EU-membership talks set for June
  5. EU ups benefits rights for mobile workers
  6. Chinese leader visits Italy, France as Rome joins 'Silk Road'
  7. EU agrees to sanction political parties breaching data rules
  8. EPP votes Wednesday on future of Orban's party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery
  2. Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban
  3. A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension
  4. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  5. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  6. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  7. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  8. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us