MEPs vote to strengthen GM opt-outs

MEPs have voted to strengthen the hand of EU countries who want to be able to ban GM crops at the national level.

In June, the European Commission agreed a draft Directive that would provide a legal basis to allow individual member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs already authorized, or under authorization, by the EU.

But under this arrangement any government wanting to ban GM would first have had to strike an opt-out deal with biotech companies to exclude their territory from GM crop cultivation zones.

Green groups warned that this would that companies would be given the legal right to decide whether a national ban should be allowed”. But this week MEPs voted to amend the Directive to simplify opt-outs, and, crucially to allow bans to be made on environmental grounds.

Welcoming the vote, IFOAM EU Group said it was now time for the European Commission to follow suit. “National GMO bans will only stand challenges if the new directive includes solid legal grounds, such as the environmental grounds included in the Parliament position. Member States must be able to ban GMOs due to the environmental and economic harm caused by their cultivation in their territories, as legally sound bans are the only way to effectively preserve biodiversity and to protect organic and non-GM food and farming from contamination in the long term,” said IFOAM EU director Marco Schlüter.

“National governments should not allow GMO cultivation to jeopardize the benefits that organic farming provides to the environment and to the European economy,” continued Eric Gall, IFOAM EU policy manager. “In the upcoming negotiations, the Commission must join the Parliament in recognising Member States’ rights and Member States should acknowledge that a lasting solution can only come from bans based on solid legal grounds.”