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GM crops – individual governments to have responsibility - 14/07/2010

Man tending to plants in field © EU

EU countries would decide for themselves whether to allow authorised genetically modified crops to be grown at home.

The commission is proposing to give EU member countries the freedom to decide whether to grow genetically modified crops, an issue that has divided the bloc for decades.

The EU would continue to approve genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for cultivation based on scientific recommendations about their safety. But individual governments would be free to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of any or all EU-authorised GMOs – on all or parts of their territory.

Health commissioner John Dalli said experience has shown EU countries need more flexibility to decide where, if at all, GM crops are grown.

EU countries have different positions on GMOs, making it hard for them to take joint decisions on whether to authorise a genetically engineered product.

Some are receptive, arguing GM crops deliver higher yields and are more resistant to pests. Others remain concerned that they may pose risks to health and the environment. Many farmers worry that GMOs could contaminate conventional and organic crops, making them difficult to market as free of GMOs.

The EU grows few GM crops compared with top producers like the US, Brazil and Argentina. Currently, just two GM products are sold for cultivation in the EU, and only one is allowed as food - a type of maize called MON180.

The EU’s approval process is to be improved, in terms of both consumer protection and the functioning of the internal market.

The proposal requires approval by EU governments and the European parliament.

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