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The European Council made an important step by reaching political agreement on 12 June 2014 towards allowing Member States to restrict or ban GMO cultivation in their territory.

Fast facts

Is it true GMOs will be now cultivated everywhere in the EU?
No. On the contrary, the agreement reached today provides for a legal basis giving more possibilities to Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation, in all or part of their territory, of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that have been authorised at EU level. This comes as a direct response to a request in that sense made by 13 Member States in 2009.

How will the system work?
Firstly, a Member State will be able, before the authorisation of a GMO, to request the applicant company, via the Commission, to specify in the application that the GMO cannot be cultivated on all or part of its territory.
Secondly, the Member State in question will be able, by adopting an opt-out measure, to have the final say not to cultivate an EU authorised GMO on its territory. Furthermore, the Member States have the possibility to reinitiate the process during the 10 year time of the GMO authorisation, should new objective circumstances appear.

Will the countries who want to ban GM cultivation need to ask for applicant companies' approval?
In the first step, indeed the company can accept or not to adjust the scope of its application according to the Member State’s request. But if it does not, after the authorisation of the GMO the Member States retains the right to ban or restrict cultivation of the GMO via an opt out measure, regardless of the company’s views.

Do Member States have to justify their choice?
In the first step, the Member State can request the applicant to have its territory partially or totally removed from the GMO authorisation’s scope without justification. After authorisation of the GMO, the Member States’ opt out measures have to be based on a wide range of reasons such as: environmental or agricultural policy objectives, town and country planning, land use, socio-economic impacts, avoidance of GMO presence in other products, or public policy, to name a few.

Is this a permanent decision?
The Member State’s decision to restrict/ban or not cultivation applies by default to the 10 year GM authorisation period. But the system also secures Member States’ legitimate right, during that period, to either reduce or withdraw a cultivation ban, or on the contrary to extend it, should new objective circumstances arise.

Will the authorisation system of GMOs change?
The authorisation system remains unchanged: the risk assessment carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will remain as strict as it is today to ensure a high level of protection for human health, animal health and the environment, and the Member States will keep their capacity to take position at the time of vote on the decision for authorisation.

What are the next steps?
The European Parliament and the Council will continue discussions in second reading to reach agreement on a common text. The GMO cultivation proposal is foreseen for final adoption in 2015.

Are GMOs already cultivated in the EU?
Yes. One GM maize –MON 810– is commercially cultivated in the EU. This product's genetic modification aims to protect the crop against a harmful pest – the European corn borer. It was authorised in 1998.
In 2013 MON 810 maize was cultivated in 5 Member States (Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia), with a total coverage of almost 150,000 hectares (including 137 000 hectares in Spain). It represents 1.56% of the 9.6 million hectares of maize cultivated in the EU, and 0.26% of the 57.4 million hectares of GM maize cultivated worldwide.
In 2010, a GM starch potato, known as "Amflora" potato, was authorised for cultivation and industrial processing in the EU. It is no longer cultivated in the EU since 2011.

EU legislation foresees that no GMO can be cultivated in the EU if it has not received a prior authorisation, following a thorough risk assessment which involves the national evaluation agencies and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in order to ensure safety for human and animal health and for the environment.
While cultivation is recognised to be an issue with strong national or local dimensions, current EU legislation on GMOs offers limited possibilities to Member State to decide on GMO cultivation on their territory. For the moment, Member States can only restrict or ban the cultivation of GMOs by adopting safeguard clauses where new serious risks to human health, animal health and the environment are identified after the GMO has been authorised.
In 2009, 13 Member States asked the Commission for more flexibility to decide not to cultivate GMOs on their territory. This is why, in 2010, the Commission adopted a proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council to offer additional possibilities to Member States to ban or restrict the cultivation of GMOs on part of or all their territory, based on their national circumstances, and without affecting the EU authorisation system.
In July 2011, the European Parliament issued a positive first reading opinion with amendments and after several years, the Council adopted on 12 June 2014 a political agreement which will allow the co-legislators to get one step closer towards the adoption of the proposal.

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