In a vote in the European Parliament today, 13 January 2015, MEPs agreed to give Member States the legal right to ban the growing of GM crops that have been approved as safe.
On 10 December 2014, after four years of negotiations, the European Council, Commission and Parliament reached an agreed position on a proposal to amend the ‘deliberate release’ Directive (2001/18/EC) and related food and feed regulation (EC) No 1829/2003) so that cultivation of GM crops can be legally banned in countries or regions.
This will give Member States the ability to decide whether or not to allow farmers to plant a particular GMO or groups of GMOs that have passed a rigorous safety assessment i.e. they have gained EU-wide regulatory approval.
The key features of the new rules are:
Member states can restrict or prohibit the cultivation of any approved GMO or a group of GMOs defined by crop or trait
Bans can be justified using a list of grounds: Specifically environmental policy; town and country planning; land use; socio-economic impacts; avoidance of GMO presence in other products; agricultural policy; or public policy
Mandatory coexistence measures must be put in place in border areas of Member States in which GMOs are grown to avoid cross-border contamination into those where cultivation is prohibited, unless the geographical conditions render such measures unnecessary
The Commission will report on ‘the actual remediation of environmental damages due to the cultivation of GMOs in Member States’ within 4 years
After various other formal steps, the amended Directive is expected to be adopted in spring this year, after which Member State governments will transpose it into national law.
It is very difficult to know at this stage what the impact will be on the UK or on British farmers of this deal.
The NFU believes that by approving the text currently tabled, the European Parliament is supporting an unscientific and unacceptable approach to regulation, which sends anti-technology signals to the rest of the world, threatens the single market and goes against WTO principles.
We are concerned that the resulting legal uncertainties may further discourage seed companies from investing in UK-relevant crop biotechnology, putting our farmers at a disadvantage.
It seems that these new rules are all about restricting agricultural innovation and limiting competitiveness rather than enabling more European farmers to benefit from biotechnology any time soon.