EU's 'dangerous' move to nationalise GM decision-making

| 14th July 2010
A GM potato
Trials of a potato genetically modified to resist infection by potato cyst nematodes are already on-going in the UK

Only two GM-crops, one for potatoes and one for maize, are currently being cultivated in Europe

Individual countries will be allowed to ban GM crops in a move the EU hopes will stop them blocking new crops being grown by farmers in other member states

A wave of genetically-modified (GM) crops could soon be grown in Europe following an announcement by the European Commission promising to nationalise the decision-making process.

Individual countries in Europe can already block the planting of GM crops by invoking a so-called 'safeguard clause', if they have justifiable reasons to consider that it poses a risk to human health or the environment.

The new EU proposals, which are still to be approved by member states and the EU parliament, would allow countries to ban GM crops for other reasons, such as social/economic reasons or concern about cross contamination of conventional and organic crops.

Current EU rules
on GM

GM is currently considered on a case-by-case basis by the EU. Although several varieties are technically allowed to be grown in Europe, only two are currently being cultivated - GM maize (genetically modified to protect the crop against the European corn borer pest and authorised in 1998) and a GM starch potato (a potato with increased starch content intended for industrial use and authorised in 2010, the first to be approved in 12 years).

Countries including Austria, Hungary, Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg are known to be keen to declare themselves GM-free and regions in Italy and Germany have already done so.

The new EU proposal would make this legally acceptable, stating: 'When the legal amendment enters into force, Member States will be free to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of all or particular GMOs, in parts of or in their entire territory. This amendment will be applicable to all GMOs that have been authorised for cultivation in the EU.'

'Dangerous move'

However, anti-GM campaigners say nationalising GM decision-making, if accepted, would allow new crops to be fast-tracked into farming and end the current political deadlock between countries at a European level.

'In an attempt to muddle through with a pro-GM agenda, [the EU] is offering countries national bans if they turn a blind eye to the health and safety concerns they have about new crops during the EU authorisation process,' said Greenpeace policy advisor Stefanie Hundsdorfer.

'Individual bans cannot replace a scientifically sound EU-level safety procedure,' she added. 'GM contamination does not stop at national borders.'

The EU insists it won't 'fast-track' GM in Europe arguing, 'there would be no speeding up of authorisations or weakening of the rigorous environmental risk assessment requirements of the legislation.'

Useful links

GM crops authorised for planting in Europe

Details on new EU proposal

GM-free Europe: how we could still ban GMOs
Re-nationalising decisions on growing GM crops would allow EU countries to declare themselves GM-free, but could bring new dangers
10 reasons why GM won't feed the world
Genetic modification can't deliver a safe, secure future food supply. Here's why...
EU votes against compulsory GM food labelling
Campaigners angry at EU's decision to keep consumers 'in the dark' over food from animals given genetically modified (GM) feed
India bans planting of first GM food crop
Campaigners welcome decision to put on hold cultivation of genetically modified (GM) aubergine crop, Bt Brinjal, until 'safety of product' established
Call for publicly funded research into GM crops
Technologies to increase agricultural productivity will allow the UK to help feed the world, says Royal Society report

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