Sunday

25th Sep 2022

EU environment ministers gear up for heated GMO debate

  • Austria's moratorium on GMO products risks breaking international trade laws (Photo: EUobserver)

EU environment ministers are gearing up for a heated debate, which should conclude on the future of a ban on two GMO-maize varieties in Austria - something with profound implications for the union's dispute on GMOs at the World Trade Organisation.

On Tuesday (30 October), the European Commission will once again propose that Austria be forced to drop its national ban on the import and processing into food and feed of two types of genetically modified maize - MON810 and T25 - in order to conform to WTO rules.

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

All 27 environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday will subsequently vote on the issue, with the so-called qualified majority of votes needed to either adopt or reject the Brussels' proposal.

The table is split fifty-fifty, however.

"There is no great majority in favour and no great majority against", one commission official said ahead of the ministerial meeting, adding that many ministers are set to make up their minds only at the last minute.

Long dispute

This is the third time that Austria finds itself in the spotlight over GMO maize, with the dispute dating back to 1999 when Vienna announced it would provisionally prohibit any use of the two controversial products.

Meanwhile, a new EU directive on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms entered into force and Brussels in 2004 requested Austria to reconsider its safeguard clause in light of the new legal framework.

However, a majority of EU ministers backed Vienna and swept away commission proposals to scrap the Austrian ban in 2005 and 2006, arguing the Austrian measure is justified due to specific agricultural and regional ecological characteristics.

According to Daniel Kapp from the Austrian environment ministry, the green light for cultivation of GMO products would damage GMO-free agricultural production.

"When it comes to smoking, we protect non-smokers against those who smoke", Mr Kapp told EUobserver, adding "the same concept should be applied to cultivation of GMOs".

WTO

The issue is closely linked to a landmark ruling by the World Trade Organisation in 2006.

The international trade watchdog backed the US, Canada and Argentina in their efforts to force Europe to accept genetically modified organisms, stating that Austria's moratorium on such products would break international trade laws.

In the face of continued backing for Vienna among EU member states, the European Commission has now re-drafted its proposal, limiting its requirements only to food and feed aspects of the Austrian prohibition.

The cultivation ban would be allowed to remain in place.

Should member states fail to reach a qualified majority position on Tuesday, it will be up to the commission to decide on the matter under EU rules on GMOs.

Analysis

Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap

While a cap on revenues from renewables is aimed at redirecting excess profits from low-cost electricity generation back to consumers, analysts and industry groups argue such measures come with risks — and at a bad time.

Opinion

How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

A Special Tribunal on Russian war crimes in Ukraine must be convened, because no permanent or existing international judicial institution is endowed with jurisdiction over Russian high-ranking officials, writes the head of the Ukraine delegation to the Council of Europe.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us