Sunday

5th Feb 2023

More than half of EU countries ask for GMO opt-out

  • Maize field. More than half of EU member states want to be able to ban growth of genetically modified maize on (part of) their territory. (Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT))

More than half of the European Union's member states have requested to be allowed to ban genetically modified crops on their territory, including Germany and France.

According to the latest count by the European Commission on Thursday (1 October), 15 of the EU's 28 member states have filed for an opt-out, ahead of a Saturday (3 October) deadline, a spokesperson told AFP.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The countries are using new EU rules that came into force last April, which allows them to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on their soil, even if that GMO has the required EU-wide stamp of approval.

Although the European Commission insists that only GMOs branded as safe by its European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are allowed in the EU, the issue is controversial and divisive.

Technically, the opt-out countries are asking biotechnology companies to exclude their territories from sales of the GMO crops. If these companies refuse to do so, they may ban the GMOs.

Currently, only one GMO is allowed to be cultivated in the EU, which is MON810 maize. But many countries also requested the Commission to be opted-out from other genetically modified maize types which are still under review by the EFSA.

The head of biotechnology lobby group Europabio told the Guardian the new legislation "sends a negative signal for all innovative industries considering investing in Europe".

"We deeply regret that some EU countries have decided to make use of the new licensed ban on the cultivation of safe and approved GM crops on their territory", said Europabio head Beat Spath.

Greenpeace said in a statement that with their bans, the national governments "are rejecting the Commission's drive for GM crop approvals".

"They don't trust EU safety assessments and are rightly taking action to protect their agriculture and food", the environmental activist group's Franziska Achterberg said. It called for a reform of the EU approval system.

The countries that requested for an opt-out are: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, France Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland.

The United Kingdom requested for a partial opt-out, for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while Belgium asked for a ban for Wallonia.

Cultivation vs. imports

The opt-outs only account for growing GM crops in European countries, not for importing GMO products.

Following the adoption of the cultivation opt-out, the Commission proposed to also allow member states to ban the use of GMOs that are imported. This plan, however, has been met with fierce resistance, because many doubt it will work in practice in border-free Europe.

The European Parliament's environmental committee is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. The draft text asks the Commission to withdraw the entire plan.

GMO cultivation in Europe is rare compared to North and South America. MON810 is the only crop grown commercially in Europe, mostly in Spain.

However, Europe does import substantial amounts of animal food that includes genetically modified ingredients.

EU allows countries to ban GMOs

New rules allow European countries to ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops on their territories, although critics fear they are a "Trojan horse" which will lead to an increase of GMOs in Europe.

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.

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.

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.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us