Global Regulations: Let the States Decide

September 9, 2010

Up until July 13, the case for cultivating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within the European Union (EU) was deadlocked: some member states support the practice (e.g., Spain and Britain), while others (e.g., Austria and France) have made moves against it.

 

Up until July 13, the case for cultivating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within the European Union (EU) was deadlocked: some member states support the practice (e.g., Spain and Britain), while others (e.g., Austria and France) have made moves against it.

But all of that will likely change. A new proposal from the European Commission (EC) would let each state choose its own path.

The cultivation of GMO crops sparks a highly contentious debate throughout the globe. Opponents of GMO agriculture argue that more science is needed on long-term environmental and human health impacts of its use. On the other hand, supporters argue that GMO crops can produce higher yields while requiring fewer pesticides and less fertilizer.

The EC’s proposal allows each of the 27 member states to approve, restrict, or ban GMO crop cultivation within their own territories. Additionally, the EC is encouraging states to consider “GMO-free” zones through the use of coexistence measures. In its decision, the EC states that coexistence measures can prevent the unintended presence of GMO crops in conventional and organic crops (via cross-pollination) up to a set maximum of 0.9%.

International environmental groups like Friends of the Earth Europe (FEE; Brussels) and Green Peace (Amsterdam) are sharply criticizing the new proposal. “While the European Commission is seemingly offering countries the right to implement national bans, in reality, the proposal aims to do the opposite, opening Europe’s fields to [GMO] crops,” said FEE food campaigner Mute Schimpf in an organization press release. “Until member states’ demands for a full reassessment of the risks of [GMO] crops are met, there should be a moratorium on authorizing new [GMO] crops,” added Schimpf.

Coexistence measures are also being questioned, as certain GMO crops are being found to cross-pollinate across great distances.

The EC plans to release a report on the socioeconomic impacts of GMO agriculture by the end of the year. Research into health and safety aspects of the practice is ongoing, according to the EC.

Currently, 30 GMOs have been authorized for food or feed in the EU, but only one GMO is authorized to be cultivated within EU borders: MON 810, a maize created by Monsanto (St. Louis).

Austria, Hungary, France, Greece, Germany, and Luxumbourg are the only states that have prohibited the cultivation of MON 810 in their territories. Poland has submitted a request to ban the marketing of GMO seeds in its territories, altogether.

While July’s decision may dramatically affect the future of GMO crops in the EU, the proposal only relates to the cultivation of GMO crops, not the ability to import or market GMO seeds in the EU. The ruling is pending a debate in the European Parliament and Council.