European ministers will decide whether to approve the cultivation of variety of genetically modified maize, after the European Commission was legally obliged to pass on the 12-year-old request.
The EU Commission passed the decision on to the European Council of Ministers yesterday (6 November) after the EU General Court ruled last month that it had failed to act on a 2001 request by European ministers to cultivate the GM maize, Pioneer-DuPont’s 1507.
The Commission will be legally obliged to approve the cultivation of the crop if ministers fail to reach a majority for or against the decision, as the request came before the 2007 revision of EU decision-making procedures.
Since that date, EU countries opposed to GMO crops have been able to use a safeguard clause to prevent their cultivation.
European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said: “Duty bound to comply with the ruling of the Court, the Commission has decided today to send a draft decision of authorisation of the maize 1507 to the Council.”
Borg said the delay showed the need for better EU-wide rules governing the cultivation of GM crops. “The Court's decision on maize 1507 confirms the urgency of reconciling strict and predictable European authorisation rules for GMO cultivation, with fair consideration of national contexts.”
He called for dialogue between the 28-country bloc’s three governing bodies, the Commission, Parliament and Council, to reach a firm decision on the maize.
Pioneer-DuPont developed 1507 to produce maize resistant to specific harmful moth larvae, such as the European corn borer.
The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) had cleared the crop for human and animal consumption six times.
Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: “The Commission is acting irresponsibly by recommending the approval of a GM crop that is known to harm butterflies and moths and that will encourage rampant use of a herbicide so toxic that it is being phased out in Europe. Given the environmental impacts, the lack of actual benefits from GM crops and the widespread public opposition, we ask: on whose behalf is the Commission acting?”
The European Commission proposed allowing national cultivation bans for GMOs in July 2010, in a bid to break a deadlock in EU GM crop approvals which has seen few varieties approved for cultivation in more than 12 years.
The proposal, however, has been subject to bitter divisions between EU member states and the proposal remains blocked.
In the EU only two GM crops are approved for commercial cultivation: insect resistant maize, and potatoes with modified starch for industrial use.
Of the total area of GM maize grown in the EU in 2012 (129,000 hectares) one country, Spain, contributed more than 90%.
To date, seven EU countries have introduced national "safeguard" bans on growing Monsanto's MON 810 insect-resistant maize: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg.
13 Dec. 2013: Environment council for which the Commission has requested a discussion on the approval of maize 1507