MEPs vote to close major loopholes in proposed legislation

1. Parliament votes to give European countries legally solid right to ban GM cultivation
2. GMO authorisation
3. Real rights to ban GMOs a step closer
4. IFOAM welcomes Parliament’s vote on National GMO bans

1. Parliament votes to give European countries legally solid right to ban GM cultivation

Greenpeace, November 11, 2014

The European Parliament voted today on a new law on national bans of genetically modified (GM) crops. The Parliament’s environment committee voted to amend the position agreed last June by ministers[1], which, according to Greenpeace, was riddled with legal holes and went against the Parliament’s earlier vote.[2]

Commenting on the outcome of the vote, Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director said, “Thumbs up to the new Parliament for wanting to secure a GM-free agriculture and environment for Europeans. Parliamentarians have radically improved the text adopted by the Council, which was heavily influenced by the UK government pro-GM stance. 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.”

In its position, the Parliament reinstated countries’ right to ban GM crop cultivation because of environmental concerns, and limited the central role that the EU ministers wanted to offer to biotech companies in the banning process. The Parliament, Commission and governments will now start negotiations, aiming to finalise this new law in the coming weeks.


[1] Greenpeace comment on Environment Ministers’ agreed position, 12 June 2014.

[2] European Parliament legislative resolution of 5 July 2011 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMs in their territory (COM(2010)0375 – C7-0178/2010 – 2010/0208(COD)).

2. GMO authorisation

The Greens, 11 Nov 2014

* "No must mean no", as MEPs vote to strengthen GMO opt-outs for member states and regions

The European Parliament's environment committee today voted on a proposal for a new scheme for the authorisation of genetically-modified organisms in the EU.[1] The vote by MEPs strengthens the grounds on which member states or regions could opt-out from GMO authorisations under the proposed new system. After the vote, Green food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said:

“MEPs have today voted to strengthen the hand of member states or regions wanting to opt-out of EU authorisations of GMOs, under a proposed new scheme, even if major concerns remain about the overall proposal. No must mean no; countries wanting to opt out of GM authorisations must have a totally legally watertight framework for doing so. However, the Greens are still very concerned that this new opt-out scheme is a slippery slope for easing EU GMO authorisations and does not fundamentally change the flawed EU approval process in itself.

"Today's vote would offer much greater certainty by allowing opt-outs on the basis of environmental grounds complementary to the ones assessed by the European Food Safety Authority, something that was rejected by EU governments in Council. MEPs have also voted for the inclusion of mandatory measures to prevent the contamination of non-GM crops, with the myriad of issues this raises. The committee also rejected a proposal from EU governments, which would have obliged member states to directly request that corporations take them out of the scope of their GMO applications, before being allowed to opt out.

"There is definitely a need to reform the EU's GMO authorisation process: we cannot persist with the current situation by which authorisations proceed in spite of flawed risk assessments and the consistent opposition of a majority of EU member states in Council and, importantly, a clear majority of EU citizens. However, the answer of this cannot be a trade-off of easier EU authorisations against easier national bans. The European Parliament must now fight tooth-and-nail to maintain this position otherwise the new proposal for EU GMO approvals is a Trojan horse, which risks finally opening the door to genetically-modified organisms across Europe, in spite of citizens' opposition."

[1]The EP's environment committee voted on its second reading position on proposals from the European Commission to revise the EU system for authorising genetically-modified organisms. With EU governments having taken a different position in Council, negotiations must now take place to conclude the legislation. The proposals foresee a streamlined decision-making process for EU GMO approvals, with the possibility for member states or regions to opt-out. However, concerns have been raised about the legal certainty of these opt-outs.

3. Real rights to ban GMOs a step closer

FoE Europe, 11 Nov 2014

Real rights for countries to ban genetically modified crops are a step closer today after a committee of MEPs voted to close major loopholes in proposed legislation.

The environment committee of the European Parliament voted to support stronger legal grounds for national governments to impose bans on the cultivation of GM crops on their territory. Importantly, MEPs also voted against giving biotech companies a role in decision-making about GM crop bans.

Friends of the Earth Europe had warned that a weak "poisoned chalice" agreement could give unprecedented power to biotech companies.

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The right for European states to legally ban genetically modified crops has taken a major step forward, without the interference of big companies with vested interests. Parliamentarians sided with the majority of European citizens who are concerned about GM crops and voted for better EU laws to protect the environment and promote genuinely sustainable farming."

In the coming weeks the Parliament, Council and European Commission will negotiate to find a joint position, with a final vote expected in January.

4. IFOAM welcomes Parliament’s vote on National GMO bans

ARC, 11 Nov 2014

* MEPs confirm that environmental concerns can justify GMO bans, EU Commission and Council must follow

IFOAM Brussels, 11 November 2014 – The organic food and farming movement congratulates the European Parliament for its vote to strengthen national bans on GMOs and urges the Council and Commission to follow suit in the upcoming negotiations.

“National GMO bans will only stand challenges if the new directive includes solid legal grounds, such as the environmental grounds included in the Parliament position. Member States must be able to ban GMOs due to the environmental and economic harm caused by their cultivation in their territories, as legally sound bans are the only way to effectively preserve biodiversity and to protect organic and non-GM food and farming from contamination in the long term,” said IFOAM EU Director Marco Schlüter.

“National governments should not allow GMO cultivation to jeopardize the benefits that organic farming provides to the environment and to the European economy,” continued Eric Gall, IFOAM EU Policy Manager. “In the upcoming negotiations, the Commission must join the Parliament in recognising Member States’ rights and Member States should acknowledge that a lasting solution can only come from bans based on solid legal grounds.”

Background – Numerous cases of contamination have shown that the cultivation of GMOs inevitably leads to the contamination of organic and conventional GM-free agriculture, at all the stages of the production chain. Starting at the beginning, no farmer located next to another farmer cultivating GM crops of a similar variety can ensure his/her own produce is GM-free. In some regions of Europe, it is currently impossible to ensure certain crops are GM-free. Next, the same infrastructure is often used for storage and transport, further increasing the risk of contamination. Lastly, contamination can occur during processing in factories. The potential for contamination currently forces farmers and processors to take technical measures to protect themselves from contamination and to conduct substantive testing, which bear high costs. These costs must be borne by companies selling and growing GMOs – the ones who gain from its cultivation.

The best guarantee against contamination is to ban GMO cultivation. Countries allowing GMO cultivation, such as Spain, should be obliged by EU law to adopt “coexistence” measures as a minimum requirement to at least give farmers and food processors a chance to prevent and mitigate contamination: polluters must pay and the victims must be compensated adequately through national liability rules. Viable liability rules for GM contamination are already in place in Austria and Germany.

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IFOAM EU represents more than 160 member organizations in the EU-28, the EU accession countries and EFTA. Member organizations span the entire organic food chain and beyond: from farmers and processors organisations, retailers, certifiers, consultants, traders and researchers to environmental and consumer advocacy bodies