Vote against GM crops for cultivation in Europe

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/Vladimir Cetinski
© istock/Vladimir Cetinski

Related tags: European union, European parliament

EU states yesterday (27 March) failed to deliver a qualified majority supporting the approval of two new GM crops for cultivation in Europe. A licence renewal of the only GM crop currently approved for cultivation in the EU was also not backed.

It was the second vote by national governments on the European Commission's proposals to approve the three GM crops. The first vote, held in January 2017, also failed to deliver a qualified majority.

The representatives of member states​ voted in the Commission's Appeals Committee against a proposal to clear for cultivation two new GM maize varieties: Syngenta’s Bt11 and the Dow Agro Science/Pioneer’s 1507, and to renew the licence for GM maize MON810, an insect-resistant maize that is grown in Spain but is banned in a number of other countries.

October 2016 saw the European Parliament adopt resolutions against the authorizations of three GM traits. 

It is now up to the Commission to decide the next move, given that yesterday’s vote was not decisive.

Results of yesterday’s vote (Source IFOAM-EU):

  • On renewal of GM maize MON 810
    • 8 Member States voted in favour, representing 34.45% of the EU population: CZ, EE, ES, NL, RO, FI, SE, UK.
    • 6 Member States abstained, representing 22.26% of the EU population: BE, DE, HR, MT, PT, SK
    • 14 Member states voted to reject, representing 43.29% of the EU population: BG, DK, IE, EL, FR, CY, LV, LU, HU, AT, PL, SI, IT, LT 14
  • On authorisation of GM maize 1507
    • 6 Member States voted in favour, representing 30.45% of the EU population: EE, ES, NL, RO, FI, UK
    • 6 Member States abstained, representing 22.28% of the EU population: BE, CZ, DE, HR, MT, SK
    • 16 Member states voted to reject, representing 47.27% of the EU population: BG, DK, IE, EL, FR, CY, LV, LU, HU, AT, PL, SI, SE, IT, LT, PT
  • On authorisation of GM maize Bt 11
    • 6 Member States voted in favour, representing 30.45% of the EU population: EE, ES, NL, RO, FI, UK
    • 6 Member States abstained, representing 22.28% of the EU population: BE, CZ, DE, HR, MT, SK
    • 16 Member states voted to reject, representing 47.27% of the EU population: BG, DK, IE, EL, FR, CY, LV, LU, HU, AT, PL, SI, SE, IT, LT, PT 47,27%

The European organic farming movement has called on the EU executive to withdraw the proposals. Eduardo Cuoco, director of organic umbrella group, IFOAM EU, said the vote shows a majority of national governments does not support cultivation of GM crops in the EU.

Eric Gall, IFOAM EU deputy director and policy manager, said: “The strong growth of the organic market is a clear indication of the direction European citizens want agriculture to go.

“European agriculture benefits from its GMO-free status and it does not need GM crops, the cultivation of which will only create problems and additional costs for conventional and organic farmers. Authorizing products already banned in 17 member states makes little sense and will certainly not make the Commission more relevant to European citizens.”

Greenpeace said that while no qualified majority was reached, the number of rejections shows that GM opposition clearly outweighs support.  

Feed protein needs

Beat Späth, director of agricultural biotechnology at the trade group representing the biotech industry, EuropaBio, decries what he sees as politics trumping science in the EU GM authorization process.

He said that for over 15 years the EU has systematically failed to stand by science when it comes to GMs, despite a multitude of opinions from EFSA reaffirming the “unquestioned safety of assessed products.” 

He told FeedNavigator: “GM cultivation in Europe could help the EU to some extent to meet its feed protein needs. However, there are many other benefits. A recent report about GM cultivation is Spain​ shows that the cultivation of Bt maize there has significant benefits from an economic, social and environmental viewpoint. At the same time, GM trade also clearly has benefits​. Whether it is for cultivation or import, European farmers should have the choice to use safety assessed GM crops.” 

EuropaBio has just published an updated pocket guide with the aim of explaining GM crop benefits and related policies in the EU: “We take responsibility as an industry to communicate about our technology and products,”​ said Späth.  

The best thing that Europe can do, he stressed, to support innovation and competitiveness is to develop and implement science-based policies and allow companies and public researchers to have access to “reliable and innovation-friendly authorization systems that ensure safe products are allowed onto the market.”​ 

Rejecting new approvals is keeping new, innovative products from entering the market, he said. "Whether it is the development of improved nutritional profiles, drought tolerance or other traits, including improved resistance to diseases and insects, new GM crops (as well as older ones) can help farmers contribute to food security and improved sustainability.”

Related topics: Regulation

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