More Possibilities for the Restriction of GMOs

EU Members States that want to go further than the rules which apply to the EU as a whole shall get more flexibility when banning the cultivation of GMOs.

How did we get here?

Existing EU legislation says that no GMO can be cultivated in the EU - unless it has received a prior authorisation after a risk assessment. This process shall ensure safety for human and animal health and for the environment. Once a GMO is authorised for cultivation Member States are not able to prohibit or restrict its free circulation within their country, except under some conditions defined by EU legislation. For the moment, Member States can only restrict or ban the cultivation of GMOs by adopting certain clauses where new serious risks to human health, animal health and the environment are identified after the GMO has been authorised. However, cultivation of GMOs is an issue with strong national and local dimensions. In 2009, some Member States asked the European Commission for more flexibility to decide when and why not to cultivate GMOs.


Why is this important for me?

Becaus you wanna know what you eat. The main objective of legislation on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is to avoid serious risks to human health, animal health and the environment through GMO cultivation. Against this background and on the grounds of the principle of subisdiarity, the new initiative tries to grant Members States more flexibility when protecting their people and environment.


What's the content?

In this context, it appeared appropriate to grant to Member States more freedom to decide whether or not they wish to cultivate GMO crops. This is why the former European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, John Dalli, published a proposal offering additional possibilities to Member States to ban or restrict the cultivation of GMOs.

Member States can adopt, on a case-by-case basis, measures to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of certain GMOs. However, those measures must be based on a) justified grounds, relating for example to pesticide resistance, b) grounds relating to socio-economic impacts, for example the high costs of coexistence of different cultures or c) other grounds that may include land use or town and country planning. Measures put forward by the Member States will be analysed regarding their costs and benefits, also considering possible alternatives and a public consultation. The freedom that Member States will obtain will only concern the act of GMO cultivation, but not the placing on the market and import of authorised seeds or GMO products.

As from 3 April 2017, Member States in which GMOs are cultivated shall take measures in border areas of their territory with the aim of avoiding possible cross-border contamination into neighbouring Member States in which the cultivation of those GMOs is prohibited, unless these measures are unnecessary in the light of particular geographical conditions.

On 3 December 2014 an agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the Member States: If a company wants to sell genetically modified crops to farmers in a certain country where the government wants to ban these crops, that government does not have to ask the company to stop selling GM crops there, as was originally proposed.


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

In July 2011, the European Parliament issued a positive first reading opinion with amendments and in June 2014 the Council adopted a political agreement which allowed the two legislators to get closer towards the adoption of the proposal. A first provisional agreement was reached on 3 December 2014 (see above), which was formally confirmed by a vote in Parliament in January 2015. Two months later the Council approved the new rules as well and they were published in the Official Journal.


Related Bills:

Cloning of animals

Updated rules on 'novel foods'

Organic production and labelling of organic products

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