Thursday

21st Oct 2021

EU states defy Brussels to back Austrian GMO ban

  • Austria says no long term health safety tests have been done on biotech crops (Photo: European Commission)

EU member states have for the second time snubbed the European Commission by backing an Austrian ban on two genetically modified maize products, which the commission says violates international trade rules.

The commission put forward two proposals to EU environment ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (18 December), requiring Austria to lift its ban on biotech maize crops already authorised by the EU executive.

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But only the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK supported the commission proposal, while the rest of the member states gave the Austrian ban a pat on the back.

Vienna banned the T25 maize made by German drugs and chemicals group Bayer and MON 810 maize made by US biotech giant Monsanto in 1999 and 2000.

The Austrian capital based its move on the fact that no long term health safety tests have been done and that imports would likely lead to the accidental spillage of the seed into the environment.

The EU executive, however, argued that the European Food Safety Authority had found there was no reason to believe that the two GMO products posed any risk to human health or the environment.

Since the World Trade Organization ruled earlier this year that EU nations broke trade rules by stopping imports of GMOs, the commission has been under pressure to remove the Austrian ban.

"The commission will now have to carefully consider the legal and scientific bases that would underpin any further proposals," it said in a statement on Monday.

When EU governments vote against a commission proposal concerning GMOs, it can either submit amended proposals to the governments, re-submit the same proposals, or present new legislation.

Green organisations, on the other hand, welcomed the member states' defiance of the commission plan.

"Every country must have the democratic right to protect its citizens and environment. Neither the European Commission nor the WTO should be allowed to force Europeans to eat genetically modified foods," said Helen Holder - a GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

"It's now time for the European Commission to put the interests of the public and the environment before those of the biotech industry," she added.

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