Q&A: GMO cultivation in the EU

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Corn in a field. ©BELGA_ AFP_P.HUGUEN  Member states want more flexibility when it comes to restricting GMO cultivation ©BELGA_ AFP_P.HUGUEN

The EU has one of the toughest genetically modified food regulations in the world and the cultivation of GM crops is only allowed following a thorough risk assessment. Yet, as member states are calling for more possibilities to restrict GMO cultivation on their territories, the European Commission has proposed some amendments to the current EU rules. The Parliament and the Council are currently looking at these proposals. Read on to learn more.


Is it allowed to grow genetically modified crops in the EU?


Yes, but only once they have been authorised at EU level, following a strict risk assessment carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). After authorisation, individual EU countries can only ban the GM product on their territory by using the so-called safeguard clause. They have to justify this decision, showing that the GMO may cause harm to people or the environment.


Are any GMOs already cultivated in the EU and did any member state ban it?


Currently, only one GM crop - insect-resistant maize MON 810 from Monsanto - is grown in the EU. However, some countries - Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg and Poland - adopted safeguard clauses to prohibit its cultivation on their territories.


Why does the EU want to change the current system for authorising GM products?


Some member states asked for more freedom and flexibility to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs on their territory. In response, the Commission proposed amendments to the current rules and they are currently being discussed by the Parliament and the Council.


When will the new rules take effect?


In 2011 MEPs voted in favour of the proposals albeit with several amendments. The Council reached a political agreement on 12 June 2014, which will allow the Parliament and the Council to continue talks in order  to reach agreement on a common text. The proposal is foreseen for final adoption in 2015.

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