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5th Feb 2023

MEPs allow national bans on GM crops

  • The only genetically modified crop that is currently cultivated on EU territory is a maize, called MON 810 (Photo: CIMMYT)

MEPs in the environment committee on Tuesday (11 November) said member states should have the right to ban genetically modified crops from their territory even if the EU has already approved them for cultivation.

The environment committee approved the change to an already existing directive from 2001 concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with 53 votes in favour and 11 against.

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The changes were the subject of major discussion between MEPs and national governments.

Following the environment committee vote, more negotiations will start a compromise text with a first meeting between representatives of the commission, parliament and council due to start on Tuesday evening.

There are several areas of dispute.

Parliament wants countries to be able to ban groups of GMOs or even all GMOs. The member states themselves want a request for a ban to be made for every separate crop.

Another divergence between parliament and council is the list of reasons why a country can ban a GM crop from its territory with MEPs wanting to extend the list.

Parliament has also ditched a member-state idea that a request for a ban should be made within two years of a crop being authorised.

There is also disagreement over whether the country that wants an opt-out, has to square it with the GM-producing company first.

Critics says this would open the possibility for companies to influence a country.

“Member states have to go to [GM seed producer] Syngenta and ask: please Syngenta, can you exclude our territory?”, said Marco Contiero of Greenpeace. “You oblige a sovereign state to strike a deal with a private company.”

Nathalie Moll, secretary general of industry group EuropaBio, downplayed the industry's ability to influence nations through the proposed deal-making.

“Have we managed so far?”, she asked rhetorically. “I often hear 'the GMO lobby', but the GMO lobby? We have had only one approval since 1998.”

The only GM crop that is currently cultivated on EU territory is a maize, called MON 810. It was authorized in 1998. It grows mostly in Spain (137,000 hectares in 2013) and comprises 1.56 percent of all maize grown in the EU, according to the commission.

The so-called Amflora potato was authorized in 2010, but it is no longer cultivated in the EU.

While Greenpeace say MEPs "have radically improved the text adopted by the council", EuropeBio has called the opt-out plan “the non-cultivation proposal”.

Once negotiations are finished, the final compromise text will still have to be adopted by parliament and council.

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