GM crop ban may be lifted in EUEU officials plan to give the 27 member states the freedom to grow, restrict or ban genetically modified (GM) crops.The European Commission says different local conditions mean EU countries need more flexibility to decide where, if at all, GM crops are grown.
But the EU will continue to study the health impact of GM crops under its current authorisation system.
Leigh Phillips, guardian.co.uk, 12 July, 2020
Oil seed rape is one of the gm crops that may be cultivated if the European commission's proposal is accepted. Photograph: Guardian The European Union will take a huge stride tomorrow towards freeing up the production of GM crops when the European commission proposes allowing national governments to make up their own minds on whether to permit their cultivation.
In a move which aims to resolve a 12-year deadlock that has resulted in a virtual freeze on the approval of GM farming, the commission will propose allowing pro-GM states such as Spain and the Netherlands to increase production, while also allowing others such as Germany and Austria to maintain restrictions.
The rare instance of Brussels handing back power to individual nations will likely present Britain's government with a delicate decision; caught between a robust GM industry lobby and a vocal protest movement.
While making it easier for states to ban GM crops, giving them the option of citing non-scientific grounds such as socio-economic or cultural reasons, Brussels is expecting a quid pro quo from opponents, that they will end what is seen as a strategy of stalling health and environmental approval by the EU.
"While it's up to member states to decide, we expect them to be more flexible from where they are now in terms of authorisation at the EU level," said one commission official.
GM cultivation in Europe has been in limbo since 1998, when a GM corn product developed by US giant Monsanto was approved, because of a deadlock between states that are for and against the biotechnology. The EU proposals are designed to appeal to both camps. On the one hand, they give anti-states broader rights to restrict GM crop cultivation on their own soil, in exchange for them softening their opposition to approval elsewhere. Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, and Luxembourg have banned cultivation; Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Britain are in favour.
"The momentous thing the commission is doing is a very simple addition to the [GM] legislation – one single article," said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, of EuropaBio, the biotechnology lobbyists, "to allow an opt-out for political reasons".
"We hope this will break the deadlock over GM, but it's missing a defence of fundamental principles [of choice]. In some countries there might be more cultivation, but in many it will mean the end of the right of farmers to grow them at all."
Green groups are also opposed, but because they feel that the change "isn't worth the paper it's written on," according to Mute Schimps of Friends of the Earth Europe.
"It's going in two directions at the same time: ostensibly allowing more banning, but also easier authorisation at the EU level," she said.
"While the commission is seemingly offering countries the right to implement national bans, in reality the proposal does the opposite, opening Europe's fields to GM crops. Governments that try to ban GM crops in their countries will find the bans overturned in court by biotech lawyers due to the weak legal basis of this short-term proposal," she added.
In a mirror image of the pro-GM lobby, the anti-GM lobby says: "All European farmers have the right to be protected from GM contamination, not just some."
The expanded ability to ban crops, on the grounds of prevention of contamination, will go into effect immediately from tomorrow, while the long-term overhaul of existing regulations, allowing member states to prohibit cultivation on non-scientific grounds, could take up to two years following the usual legislative process in the European capital.