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27th Sep 2021

EU to give countries greater powers on GM food

  • If products were genetically modified, the EU commission would want countries to decide for themselves if they wanted to allow them (Photo: Kup, Kup)

The European Commission wants to give individual member states the power to ban food products made from genetically modified organisms, even if those GM foods have been given an EU-wide stamp of approval.

The plan has been laid down in a review of the GMO authorisation process, which EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker tasked his food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis to write. A draft copy of the review was seen by this website.

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The idea to grant EU countries opt-outs for GM food products comes after a similar change in EU rules on cultivation of GM crops on EU territory.

“This proposal is largely inspired from this Directive [on GMO cultivation], including its objectives and the mechanisms foreseen to achieve them. The conclusions drawn by the Union legislature during the negotiation process can thus be applied to this proposal.”

Before genetically modified organisms can enter the EU, either as food products (both for humans and animals), or as ingredients, they must have acquired authorisation.

“Until recently, the Union legal framework did not allow member states to oppose to the use of GMOs for cultivation and other uses and GM food and feed on their territory by other means than expressing a negative vote during the decision-making process leading to the authorisation of GMOs and GM food and feed or, once the authorisation is granted, by invoking safeguard clauses/emergency clauses”, the draft text reads.

Member states are only allowed to prohibit an already authorised GMOs or GM food if that country can show it will pose a risk to the population's health or environment.

“However, the issue raised by member states, which oppose authorisations, have usually nothing to do with science, but rather concern other aspects of the societal debate in their country.”

The commission wants to give countries the option to opt out on other grounds as well, as long as the arguments are "reasoned and based on compelling grounds" and "proportional and non-discriminatory".

NGOs that oppose the use of GMOs are likely to oppose the plan. As with the cultivation opt-out, a side-effect may be that if anti-GMO countries are able to ban GM foods, they will no longer block the often deadlocked EU-wide authorisation process.

Commissioner Andriukaitis is due to publish the review before the end of the month.

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