New legislation to allow EU member states to restrict or ban the cultivation of crops containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on their own territory, even if this is allowed at EU level, was passed by MEPs today. The legislation, informally agreed by Parliament and Council in December, was originally tabled in 2010 but was then deadlocked for four years due to disagreement between pro- and anti-GMO member states.
Speaking in Strasbourg after the vote, Nessa Childers said that while she supported the new legislation and welcomed this development she had to vote against it: “On balance, and because of concerns over the central role granted to the biotech companies in the legislation I decided not to support this new legislation”.
Risk assessment and management
The new rules would allow member states to ban GMOs on environmental policy grounds other than the risks to health and the environment already assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Member states could also ban GMO crops on other grounds, such as town and country planning requirements, socio-economic impact, avoiding the unintended presence of GMOs in other products and farm policy objectives. Bans could also include groups of GMOs designated by crop or trait.
Before a member state may adopt such measures, the legislation provides for a procedure enabling the GMO crop company to consent to such restrictions on its marketing authorisation. However, if the company disagrees, the member state may impose a ban unilaterally.
Member states should also ensure that GMO crops do not contaminate other products, and particular attention should be paid to preventing cross-border contamination with neighbouring countries, says the text.
Friends of the Earth Europe is however critical of weaknesses in the law, in particular where governments have an option to ask biotech companies for permission to enact national bans.
Greenpeace is concerned that biotech companies will have a central role in the banning process and that EU countries could be exposed to legal challenges.
The new legislation will come into force in spring 2015.