After four years of discussions and negotiations, the European Parliament and the Council made it possible to regain the right for those EU countries that do not want Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) cultivated in their territories to ban those activities. The talks between the EU Commission, EU Parliament, and the Council over the cultivation of genetically modified crops in Europe ended up with a provisional agreement last week.
The lengthy discussions were among the top issues on the agenda of the new Commission. The text on which the trio of EU institutions agreed enables EU members to fence themselves against GMOs. Currently, only three EU countries cultivate GMOs – Spain, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. However, new GMOs, approved by the Commission, will be marketed as soon as the EU adopts the newly agreed text. This means that seven GMOs that are not currently cultivated in Europe could find their way into Europe as soon as the final version of the text is available, which is likely to be early in 2015.
In a statement that followed the meeting on 3 December, the EU Commissioner for Health, Vytenis Andriukaitis, embraced the agreement saying that it “give member states the possibility to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs on their territory, without affecting the EU risk assessment”. He has, however, also emphasized that the deal remains provisional until it has been adopted by the Parliament and the European Council, which makes it very unlikely that European fields would see the newly-approved GMOs coming next spring. Opponents of GMOs are not satisfied with the agreement. They are mostly unhappy about the fact that evaluation process for GM crops under the European Food Safety Authority has not been modified. Among the EU member states, France is one of the most vocal critics of the new agreement as the French public opinion is overwhelmingly against GMOs.