Possibility to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory for Member States

EU flag at the European Parliament
EU flag at the European Parliament (Photo credit: European Parliament)

Published on the Official Journal of the European Union, on 5th February:

European Parliament legislative resolution of 5 July 2011 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory (COM(2010)0375 – C7-0178/2010 – 2010/0208(COD))

This position is adopted at first reading and now will be sent to the Commission, to refer to Parliament again if it intends to amend its proposal substantially or replace it with another text.

It contains an explicit reference to the precautionary principle:

“(2b) There is a need for the precautionary principle to be taken into account in the framework of this Regulation and when implementing it.”

and contains also a list of cases by which a MS could restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory, related specifically to local or regional environmental impacts or grounds relating to risk management.

“Article 26b

Cultivation

Member States may adopt, after a case-by-case examination, measures restricting or prohibiting the cultivation of all or particular GMOs or of groups of GMOs defined by crop or trait or of all GMOs authorised in accordance with Part C of this Directive or Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003, and consisting of genetically modified varieties placed on the market in accordance with relevant Union legislation on the marketing of seed and plant propagating material, in all or part of their territory, provided that:

(a) those measures are based on

(i) duly justified grounds other than those related to the assessment of the adverse effect on health and environment relating to local or regional environmental impacts which might  arise from the deliberate release or the placing on the market of GMOs and which are complementary to the environmental impacts examined during the scientific assessment of the impacts on the environment conducted under Part C of this Directive, or grounds relating to risk management.

Those grounds may include:

— the prevention of the development of pesticide resistance amongst weeds and pests;

— the invasiveness or persistence of a GM variety, or the possibility of interbreeding with domestic cultivated or wild plants;

— the prevention of negative impacts on the local environment caused by changes in agricultural practices linked to the cultivation of GMOs;

— the maintenance and development of agricultural practices which offer a better potential to reconcile production with ecosystem sustainability;

— the maintenance of local biodiversity, including certain habitats and ecosystems, or certain types of natural and landscape features;

— the absence or lack of adequate data concerning the potential negative impacts of the release of GMOs on the local or regional environment of a Member State, including on biodiversity;

(ii) grounds relating to socio-economic impacts. Those grounds may include:

— the impracticability or the high costs of coexistence measures or the impossibility of implementing coexistence measures due to specific geographical conditions such as small islands or mountain zones;

— the need to protect the diversity of agricultural production;

— the need to ensure seed purity; or

(iii) other grounds that may include land use, town and country planning, or other legitimate factors”.

The procedure to apply those restrictive measures is quite complex (and this is only a proposal), but those requirements seems to be rather wide. Therefore I see great difficulties in the future for GMOs cultivations.

This proposal comes in a moment of reflection on GMOs in Europe.

BASF has said it will stop seeking approval of its genetically modified potato varieties in the European Union after a decade of research and investment, citing uncertainties in the regulatory environment, and every authorisation process seem now to be “freezed”.

Eu Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said that it is untrue to say that the process is frozen until 2014, but “this indeed is not foreseen in the very near future”.

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