New flexible approach to GMO cultivation in the EU
A new flexible approach to GMO cultivation has been outlined by the European
Commission today which seeks to achieve the right balance between maintaining
an EU authorisation system and the freedom for member states to decide on GMO
cultivation in their territory.
Whilst keeping unchanged the EU's science-based GM authorisation system, the
Commission is proposing EU member states are given the freedom to allow,
restrict or ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on
part or all of their territory.
Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, John Dalli said:
"Last March, the Commission promised to present a comprehensive
proposal on our future policy vis-à-vis GM cultivation by the end of the
summer. Today we deliver on that promise. The concrete measures adopted today
will allow member states the freedom to decide on GMO cultivation. Experience
with GMOs so far shows that member states need more flexibility to organise the
co-existence of GM and other types of crops such as conventional and organic
The Commissioner added: "Granting genuine freedom on grounds other
than those based on a scientific assessment of health and environmental risks
also necessitates a change to the current legislation. I stress that, the
EU-wide authorisation system, based on solid science, remains fully in
"This means that a very thorough safety assessment and a reinforced
monitoring system are priorities in GMO cultivation and are therefore being
pursued vigorously. The Commission is committed to follow up actions on them
before the end of the year,” he said.
The adopted package consists of:
- a Communication explaining the more flexible approach under existing
legislation and the proposed small amendment to it;
- a new Recommendation on co-existence of GM crops with conventional and/or
organic crops which better reflects the possibility under the existing
legislation for member states to handle the co-existence of GM and other types
of crops. It gives member states flexibility to define such co-existence
measures and allows them, for example, to aim at levels of unintended GMO
presence that are lower than the 0.9 per cent labelling threshold of the
- a draft Regulation proposing a change to the GMO legislation (Directive
2001/18/EC) to allow member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of
GMOs in their territory, to be adopted by the European Parliament and the
Council of Ministers.
As of today, a more flexible approach towards cultivation:
The strict authorisation system already in place, which is based on science,
safety and consumer choice, will remain the same.
With the new freedom given to member states to decide on cultivation, a
strong signal is sent to citizens that Europe takes into account their
concerns, which may vary from one country to another, regarding GMOs. The new
approach aims to achieve the right balance between maintaining an EU
authorisation system and the freedom for member states to decide on GMO
cultivation in their territory. The proposal delivers on President Barroso's
political guidelines, presented in September 2009. Adding this freedom to the
legislative framework for GMOs should enable the authorisation system for GMOs
to function effectively. As a first step under existing legislation, today's
new Recommendation on guidelines for the development of national co-existence
measures replaces the previous recommendation of 2003.
The previous Recommendation made a direct
link between the establishment of co-existence measures and the respect of the
0.9% threshold for labelling as GM food, feed or products intended for direct
processing. Member states were advised to limit co-existence measures (e.g.
length of distances between GM and non-GM fields) to comply with 0.9% GM
presence in other crops.
Experience gained over the last years shows that the potential loss of
income for non-GM producers, such as organic and sometimes conventional
producers, is not limited to exceeding the labelling threshold. In certain
cases, the presence of GMOs in certain food products may cause damages to
operators who would wish to market them as not containing GMOs.
The non-binding guidelines included in the new Recommendation on
co-existence better reflect the possibility provided in the existing
legislation (Article 26a of Directive 2001/18/EC) for member states to adopt
measures to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in conventional and organic
crops. This also allows for measures aiming to limit GMO content in
conventional food and feed to levels below the labelling threshold of 0.9%. The
Recommendation also clarifies that member states can establish
"GMO-free" area and this new Recommendation provides better guidance to
member states to develop co-existence approaches. The European Co-existence
Bureau will continue to develop together with member states best practices for
co-existence as well as technical guidelines on related issues.