EU Environmental Ministers have voted to allow individual countries decide whether or not to ban or allow the growing of genetically modified crops, GMO, in their country.

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg said he was delighted with the ruling. “I am delighted to announce that the Environment Council has just broken the deadlock on the GMO cultivation proposal and has reached a political agreement that moves towards a new legal basis giving Member States the choice to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs on their territory.” 

He said today’s political agreement meets Member States’ consistent calls since 2009 to have more flexibility and legal certainty for national decisions on cultivation on their territory or part of their territory.

Under this agreement, a two-step procedure is established to restrict or ban the cultivation of authorised GMOs, he said. “It offers extended and legally sound possibilities for Member States to better take into account their national context when deciding on GMO cultivation. Currently, Member States can only use safeguard clauses to ban cultivation based on risk.”

He also said the agreement secures a Member States legitimate right to adjust their decision to restrict or ban cultivation during the 10-year GM authorisation period, if new objective circumstances arise.

“This proposal is not about the EU-wide risk assessment carried out by the European Food Safety Authority, which will remain as strict as it is today to ensure a high level of protection for human health, animal health and the environment.”

However, Greenpeace has warned that the text of the agreement is riddled with holes and says the text gives biotech companies an official role in the banning process.