Better legal protection needed on the use of GMOs on environmental grounds

MEPs from the Environment Committee approved a report in which consider that to allow EU countries to ban or restrict the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on environmental grounds, giving them better legal protection in the event of challenges from trading partners opposed to a ban.

The report focuses on the fact whether Member states will be able to restrict or ban GMO cultivation on agro-environmental grounds or not, for example pesticide resistance, the invasiveness of certain crops and a threat to biodiversity. This legal framework is important because there are European countries using "safe-guard" clause to ban GMOs -Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Luxembourg- and moreover, only the 21% of Europeans think it is safe, according to the Eurobarometer from October 2010. The GMOs authorised in EU are cotton, maize, bacterial protein, yeast strains, oilseed rape, potato, soybean, sugar beet.

The proposal will not be able to ban them on health grounds. Corinne Lepage, MEP responsible for the report, considers that  “the EU authorisation system should be maintained but it should be acknowledged that some agricultural and environmental effects, as well as the socio-economic impact linked to contamination, can be cited by Member States to justify a ban or restriction on GMO cultivation”.

The changes will not alter the safety approval procedure for GM crops, which is carried out by the European Commission on the basis of an independent risk assessment from the European Food Safety Authority. The report adopted by the Environment Committee of the European Parliament is in line with the European Commission proposal which is evaluated at the same time by the Council.