EU countries to make their own GMO decisions – commissioner

13 July 2010 16:37  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--John Dalli, EU commissioner for health and consumer policy, on Tuesday proposed to allow EU member states to make their own decisions on whether to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), even if the products have been approved by the EU’s science-based authorisation system, he said.

Dalli’s draft proposal comes after the Commission in March broke a 12-year moratorium on cultivating GMOs when it approved BASF’s genetically engineered Amflora potato.

“Experience with GMOs so far shows that member states need more flexibility to organise the co-existence of GM and other types of crops such as conventional and organic crops," Dalli said.

The new approach aimed to achieve “the right balance” between maintaining an EU authorisation system and the freedom for member states to decide on GMO cultivation in their territory, he said.

Austria’s agriculture and environment minister Niki Berlakovich welcomed the proposal.

Critical for Austria, which is strongly opposed to GMOs, was that with the new approach the EU would no longer try to overturn bans imposed by individual member states, even if those bans were not based on a scientific assessment of health and environmental risks, Berlakovich said.

German industry commentators and Greenpeace Deutschland predicted that despite allowing for bans by individual member states, Dalli’s proposal would make it easier for member states interested in GMOs to cultivate the products. As a result, the EU might see more cultivation of GMOs, not less, they said.

Until the Commission's Amflora approval in March, the EU had not permitted – since 1998 - the growing of new genetically modified plants as decision-making within the EU Council had stalled, with neither proponents nor opponents of the technology having a majority.

Dalli's proposal would amend the current directive 2001/18/EC on allowing member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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