GMO cultivation in Europe: A decade of legal battles


The European Union has agreed on a new approach to the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) which allows member states to ban or restrict GMOs in their territory. The agreement should mark the end of a decade of legal problems, but in the context of ongoing EU-US free trade negotiations, vocal GMO opposition from member states and civil society is unlikely to subside.

Horizontal Tabs


The European Union has the strictest rules on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the world.

After a decade of legal battles, the European Union reached an agreement in June 2014, allowing its member states to restrict or ban GMO crops in their territory.

The new president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has backed the new comprehensive legal framework which will give EU member states a legal basis they have been wanting for years.

The EU regulatory system is based on tight safety standards and freedom of choice for consumers and farmers. The tools used to ensure freedom of choice are effective labelling and traceability.

There are two key rules which govern GMOs in the EU (link to overview): a directive  used for the authorisation of GMO products in EU and regulation used on food and feed made from GMO products that have been authorised.



Gerry's picture

The US has grown about a million hectares of GM corn and other crops for at least ten years, the products of which has found its way into most animal and many human foodstuffs. There have been no incidents and most Americans are not particularly worried about it. The GM hysteria is still a typical European affliction, despite the scientific community's opinion that GM technology is no more hazardous then traditional plant breeding techniques. How long can people keep being afraid of something that is not going to hurt you?

Risk-Monger's picture

Gerry you are trying to use rational thinking and logic here. Not a good idea. As Anne Glover says, it is not about facts or science, they just don't want GMOs. Why? The anti-GMO lot suffer from a lot of emotional prejudice, ranging from latent anti-Americanism (although much biotech research originates in Europe) - the same lot is spreading fear about TTIP, a prejudice that there is some serene concept of nature and natural that must be applied to food, a prejudice that anything man does in the name of progress will go badly wrong, a prejudice held by some farmers that they cannot compete with industrial farms in the US, Brazil and Argentina, so better to grow "luxury products". These prejudices have been reinforced over decades and many groups have profited nicely from the sale of fear (GMO is commonly referred to as Greenpeace Membership Opportunity). It is so irrational a prejudice that Greenpeace continues to campaign against Golden Rice, happier to accept the continued loss of up to 500,000 child lives a year due to Vitamin A deficiency.
More interesting is what the news will mean in practice. If Spain grows GM corn for human consumption and France says "Non, merci!", does that mean they will block Spanish grain at the border (I was here in 1992 and I don't believe that was the spirit of the free movement of goods and services). Or will it simply need to be labelled and most of us will really not care - soon the anti-GMO lot will go the way of the flat-earth society. We haven't got to that curious crossroad yet.
What will this mean for African farmers, desperately needing the advanced agro-tech but worried about exports to Europe if they join the 21st century? Will they be able to improve their yields and not be punished by the EU? Did the EU introduce this "choice" legislation to get out of one problem only to open up many others. Has anyone thought this through?

Jay's picture

It's still all about the money, number one. Patented, and patent infringement on genetically modified seeds raise prices at both ends of the plants. Secondly, crop plants engineered for herbicide tolerance and weeds will cross-breed, resulting in the transfer of the herbicide resistance genes from the crops into the weeds. These "superweeds" would then be herbicide tolerant as well. Thirdly, environmental affects can cause harm throughout the food chain of animal life. Fourthly, many people are allergic to certain types of food and a super charged crop could lead to a fatal outcome.

Poseur's picture

Jay - 1) The Money - the approval and renewal of approval process for placing GMOs on global markets is more than enough incentive for seed manufacturers to charge premium prices and protect their patents. This also stifles cross-breeding of GMOs with regional varieties of the crops to create a more diverse population. 2) If interspecies cross-breeding were that easy, the need for using GM to produce GMO wouldn't be as great. 3) Where are the bodies? Glyphosate is less harmful and has less of a carbon footprint than conventional herbicides and its widespread use has lowered the overall use of pesticides. 4) Again, where are the bodies? Some brilliant group tried to insert Brazil Nut protein into soybean and it caused allergic reactions which resulted in the termination of that cultivar. An Australian group that inserted an amylase enzyme from Lima beans into peas suspended their efforts based on fear that the inserted protein created a new allergen. This proved not to be the case as recent work has shown that the allergen was always in peas and Lima beans.

Jay's picture

In the US, Monsanto is suing farmers for using their seeds without paying the company their royalty fees. The farmers contend that cross pollination infected their crops and they are suing Monsanto. There is no way one or the other can protect their produce from cross pollination without building green houses the size of a small city. Why do we need a body count before doing long term research? That's not the way it is done in the pharmaceutical industry and it shouldn't be done in the food industry either. The Monarch butterfly has been identified as a species threatened by GMO's. There could be more species threatened but we will never know until it's too late the way the industry is cramming their products down our throats.