In the latest blow to the European Commission’s laissez-faire approach to GM crops, almost half of the EU’s countries and several regions are in the process of banning the cultivation of GM crops on their territories, with more expected to follow by a 3 October deadline for notifications to the EU, says Greenpeace in an analysis published on Thursday 1 October..
On 1 October, nine EU countries (Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Poland) and one regional administration (Wallonia, in Belgium) had already formally notified the Commission of their intention to ban GM crop cultivation under new EU rules. Statements by governments to the media also inform of impending notifications by four additional countries (Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia) and two regional administrations (Scotland and Northern Ireland, in the UK).
This brings the total number of countries who have already declared their intention to put in place GM crop bans to 13 – plus three regions – representing 63 % of the EU’s population and 66 % of its arable land. Several more countries are expected to follow suit as the deadline approaches.
The bans currently notified apply to the only GM crop currently approved for cultivation in Europe – Monsanto’s pesticide-producing GM maize, known as MON810 – but also to the seven GM crops awaiting approval by the Commission. These are all GM maizes.
Nine EU countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg and Poland) had previously banned cultivation of MON810 under so-called safeguard clauses.
Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “A growing number of governments are rejecting the Commission’s drive for GM crop approvals. They don’t trust EU safety assessments and are rightly taking action to protect their agriculture and food. The only way to restore trust in the EU system now is for the Commission to hit the pause button on GM crop approvals and to urgently reform safety testing and the approval system.”
In July 2014, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that the Commission should not be able to force through GM crops against a majority of EU countries. The Commission is yet to deliver a legislative proposal that can achieve this. A revised EU risk assessment scheme, called for by EU environment ministers in 2008, has similarly not been implemented. Current risk assessments by the EU’s food safety authority also ignore EU rules in place since 2001 (Directive 2001/18) for more in-depth and independent testing of GM crops.