Europe Eyes Additional Restrictions on GMOs

     (CN) – After nearly five years of legal wrangling, EU member states may soon be able to restrict or ban genetically modified organisms, environmental ministers of the European Council said Thursday.
     EU lawmakers first broached the topic of restricting genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in 2009 after 13 member states demanded that regulators let them either ban or restrict the organisms within their territories regardless of official EU policy.
     Public outcry spurred lawmakers to action after a tepid response to the issue in the council and a bungled attempt by the European Commission to approve a genetically modified potato – by ignoring the EU food-safety agency’s deep and published doubts about the potato’s safety.
     Already, Europe’s GMO market is the most regulated in the world, and so far only one genetically modified crop is grown commercially there: an insect-resistant corn developed by GMO kingpin Monsanto, on only 247,000 acres of farmland.
     For the council’s environmental committee, letting member states now opt out of any further EU approvals of GMOs is the next logical regulatory step.
     “After more than four years of difficult negotiations, today we have reached a political agreement in the environment council on the opt-out proposal on the cultivation of GMOs,” environmental committee chair Yannis Maniatis said in a statement late Thursday. “For the first time, member states will have a solid legal tool to prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory. This is the first, very important step, in our continuous effort for the further improvement and effective regulation of the GMO authorization system in the EU.”
     The agreement establishes a nonexhaustive list of possible grounds – including environmental, socioeconomic, zoning and public policy -member states can use to restrict or ban GMOs.
     Member states choosing to opt out of any authorization of a GMO by EU authorities will make their case with the European Commission. No response or a late response by a member state will be considered tacit approval of the GMO within that territory, according to the proposal.
     The bill requires full council approval before it can advance to the newly elected European Parliament later this year.
     In the United States, lawmakers – and courts – have long welcomed GMO crops with open arms. Farmers have converted over 40 percent of U.S. cropland – 170 million acres in 2012 – to GMO plantings, growing 45 percent of all biotech crops worldwide.

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