The European GMO “ban-wagon” is on a roll

Victory is sweet.  Let’s have a shout out to all the European non-GMO advocates and environmentalists!  Congratulations!

As of the October 3rd cut-off date, the European Commission reported receiving a total of nineteen requests from member states to opt-out of the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Under the new rules passed by the European Parliament earlier this year, decisions on GMOs will be left up to the individual member states notwithstanding any approvals granted at the Europe-wide bloc level.

Applications to opt-out must be approved by the Commission.  The biotech companies involved, Monsanto, Syngenta, and Pioneer can review and oppose the ban. Even if a company does oppose the opt-out request, member states can still invoke ‘substantial grounds’ for enforcing a ban, such as environmental or agricultural reasons.

Responding to the first set of opt-out requests, Monsanto fired back in their blog that “these ‘nimby’ (not-in-my-backyard) nations’ decisions contradict and undermine the scientific consensus. . .” Although Monsanto did acquiesce to requests by Latvia and Greece, market access and regulatory issues will figure prominantly in the on-going negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade agreement.

Farm policy and practices are much different in the EU than in America.  U.S stakeholder groups and trade analysts have frequently criticized the European attitude. In a statement to Agri-Pulse last year, Frances B. Smith, Adjunct Fellow with the pro-trade Competitive Enterprise Institute, said “The EU system uses the precautionary principle, which allows populist beliefs to evade the science-based rules.” She also said genetically modified foods, biotechnology and pesticides are some of the top contentious issues in negotiations with the EU.

Although rejection by so much of Europe is a set back for the agro-chemical and biotech industry, especially when it comes to losing out with large agricultural producers like France and Germany, there is potential for a much greater ripple effect in developing markets.  This is particularly critical for Africa where many countries closely follow trends in Europe, and where a great deal of pressure is being applied to lift bans currently in effect.

The 19 EU member countries opting out are: Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.  There are currently 28 member countries in the Union.

Sources.
Agri-Pulse.com. Article. http://www.agri-pulse.com/Ag-urge-science-based-regs-TTIP-10012014.asp
Deutsche Welle. Article. http://www.dw.com/en/nineteen-eu-countries-seek-gmo-opt-out/a-18760718
Ecowatch.com. Article. http://ecowatch.com/2015/10/05/european-union-ban-gmos/
Monsanto Company. Blog. http://monsantoblog.eu/innovation-no-thanks-nimby-nations-opt-out-of-gm-seed-cultivation-under-new-law/#.VhUkx3pVhBc