Members of the European Parliament on Tuesday (11 November) backed a plan to allow nations to ban genetically modified crops on their soil, even if they are given approval to be grown in the European Union, raising the chance their use will remain limited on the continent.
Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops in Europe have divided opinion, with opposition in many countries including France and Germany, while Britain favours them.
A previous compromise endorsed this year by EU ministers would have required negotiations with the relevant companies, if a nation wanted to ban a GM crop in the event it had been approved for EU-wide use.
>> Read our LinksDossier: GMO cultivation in Europe: A decade of legal battles
The plan voted through the Parliament’s environment committee on Tuesday would leave out that stage and allows member states to ban GM crops on environmental grounds.
It drew praise from GM opponents.
“MEPs have today voted to strengthen the hand of member states or regions wanting to opt-out of EU authorisations of GMOs,” said Bart Staes, a spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament. “No must mean no: countries wanting to opt out of GM authorisations must have a totally legally watertight framework for doing so.”
“Today’s vote would give European countries a legally solid right to ban GM cultivation in their territory, making it difficult for the biotech industry to challenge such bans in court,” Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, said.
Left-leaning politicians also welcomed Tuesday’s vote, which kicks off formal negotiations on a legal text, saying it strengthened the grounds for opting out of any GM cultivation.
Conservatives were opposed.
“The parliament’s position on GM cultivation risks inflicting untold damage to robust, science-based policymaking in Europe. We strongly oppose these proposals and voted against them today. We will continue to oppose them,” Julie Girling, environment spokeswoman for the Conservatives in the European Parliament, said.
The executive European Commission said in a statement it was confident the law could be in place in 2015, once it had received final endorsement from the European Parliament and member states.
GM cultivation has provoked opposition in Europe for years. An earlier attempt to agree a compromise on GM cultivation failed in 2012, when EU ministers were unable to agree.
So far, EU authorities have approved only two GM crops for commercial cultivation, and one was later blocked by a court.
That leaves Monsanto’s GM maize MON810 as the only GM crop grown in Europe, where it has been cultivated in Spain and Portugal for a decade.