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Parliament approves nationalisation of GMO cultivation choice

The European Parliament has approved the Commission’s proposal to let member states decide if they want to grow genetically modified crops on their territory, and has detailed the grounds that governments can invoke to ban GMOs.

The Parliament’s report, drafted by a French liberal MEP, Corinne Lepage, was adopted with a wide majority—548 votes in favour, 84 against and 31 abstentions—during a plenary vote in Strasbourg on 5 July.

The proposal says the EU should maintain common authorisation rules, but that member states should be able to restrict or prohibit GMOs on their territory based on environmental, socio-economic or land use concerns.

The Commission had initially proposed that member states could ban the cultivation of GM crops for any reason except health or environmental grounds, which would still be assessed at the EU level by the European Food Safety Authority.

Lepage commented: “I am pleased that the Parliament has finally managed to reach an agreement on such a delicate issue as GMOs, which has generated much heated debate amongst members of the public for years. If the Council [of Ministers] agrees to a common position, this balanced agreement will allow States and regions not to proceed with GMO crop cultivation on duly justified grounds.”

But the UK National Farmers Union has criticised the MEPs’ decision to allow member states to ban the cultivation of GM crops for what it termed “non-scientific reasons”.

Helen Ferrier, NFU’s chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said: “We are disappointed that MEPs have decided to act according to emotive and political agendas rather than robust scientific evidence. This stance could discourage scientific research and investment in the EU which are crucial for sustainable agriculture…

“Of course there needs to be a strong legal framework for approvals and effective co-existence measures to allow GM and non-GM systems to operate successfully together.

“However, this must be based on sound science and market mechanisms to allow farmers the choice over which crops to grow.”