D-Day looms for EU on GM crop cultivation
BRUSSELS, Belgium – European governments must now decide once and for all if they are to block or permit the cultivation of genetically modified crops on the continent, the European Commission said Wednesday, November 6.
The Commission said it is now handing over to ministers a final decision on the cultivation of TC1507 corn by Pioneer after a European Court ruling that the company's request for permission submitted in 2001 must be dealt with.
The European Union's 28 environment ministers meet in Brussels on December 13 and they will decide using qualified majority voting – which is weighted to take account of bigger states such as France, a key opponent of GM crops.
EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said that without a clear majority either way, "the law as it stands (means) it would be deemed to have been approved."
"Those who abstain are in effect voting in favor," Borg said.
The commissioner also dusted down plans deadlocked for the past 3 years that would allow countries in the EU to "opt out" of GM crop cultivation on their territory on grounds other than science.
To date GM crops have won repeated safety approvals from experts despite environmentalists' fears that they will harm the ecosystem and ultimately human health.
Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg and Poland have each invoked safeguard measures to block the cultivation of Monsanto's MON810 maize on their territories.
That is the only GM crop currently grown in Europe, after the makers of a GM potato abandoned commercialization despite holding an authorization.
There are, however, some 51 genetically-modified organisms authorized for import into the EU, the Commission citing for instance some 30 million tonnes of GM soya imported for feed use in 2012.
France's safeguards have already been ruled illegal under EU law by the country's Council of State court although President Francois Hollande subsequently said the national ban would remain.
"We want to allow member states to exercise their freedom to choose whether or not to cultivate GMOs on their territory," Borg said. – Rappler.com
Corn image from Shutterstock