Industry reps cry that Europe could soon become a “graveyard” for biotech products; environmentalists rejoice. The mass rejection of the GM technology means that approximately two-thirds of Europe’s arable land will remain GMO free.
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 allowed at the EU level, was passed by a large majority in the European Parliament on January 13, 2015.
As of Oct 1, Germany became the latest country to opt out of the Europe-wide approval system for GM crops, bringing the total to 15. Other countries that have exercised an opt out or said they plan to include Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia. In addition, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Wallonia (Belgium) will also be opting out on a regional basis.
The new rules 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. The new law only applies to crops, however, and does not cover animal feed, which can still enter the human food chain indirectly.
Only one GM crop is currently grown in Europe: Monsanto’s MON 810, a variety of corn genetically engineered with built-in insecticide (Bt), is grown primarily in Spain.
The “Amflora” GM potato was banned by the EU General Court in 2013 after an initial green light from the European Commission.