European Union lawmakers voted July 5 to strengthen proposals to let governments decide whether to grow or ban genetically modified (GM) crops, designed to break a deadlock in EU GM crop approvals.
Despite the majority backing of the European Parliament for the plans, continued opposition from several large EU member states means the draft legislation is unlikely to be finalized this year, if at all.
EU lawmakers agreed that governments should be free to ban the cultivation of GM crops based on environmental concerns, such as to protect biodiversity or prevent the spread of “super weeds” that are resistant to herbicides.
In its original proposal the EU’s executive, the European Commission, said governments should not use environmental or health grounds as a justification for bans, as these are already taken into account during the EU safety approval process. Environmental groups welcomed the vote as a sign the European Parliament would take a strong position against any attempts to force EU countries into allowing GM crop cultivation in their territories.
“This is a clear signal from MEPs that they are on the side of the majority of European citizens who oppose GM crops,” Friends of the Earth food campaigner Mute Schimpf said in a statement.
But the EU’s biotech industry said the vote revealed how politicized the issue of regulating GM crops had become in Europe.
“If member states can opt out of a product approval system simply because of political preference, without any scientific reasoning, the result will be more uncertainty and less choice for farmers,” said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas of EU biotech industry association EuropaBio.
The draft rules must be jointly approved by EU governments before becoming law.