Under this new scheme, member states would be able to ban or limit the cultivation of GMOs beyond the basis of health and environmental concerns. The plans would enable member states to invoke public policy issues, agricultural policy objectives and socioeconomic reasons, among others.
MEPs voted against the council's proposal to introduce a phase of negotiations with GMO companies.
In addition, there are tentative plans to implement 'buffer zones', aimed at preventing cross-border contamination.
The plan, under the rapporteurship of Frédérique Ries, was adopted with 53 votes to 11. The ALDE MEP was pleased to have "secured a large consensus between the political groups in the European parliament on this sensitive issue".
Gilles Pargneaux, the S&D group's shadow rapporteur on the issue, praised Ries for her "complete and very balanced report", adding that "GMOs are a good example of what the parliament does or tries to do to champion citizens' rights".
"This vote shows we have secured a large consensus between the political groups in the European parliament on this sensitive issue" - Frédérique Ries
Matthias Groote, S&D spokesperson on health and climate, pointed out that "the overwhelming majority of European citizens do not support the cultivation of GMOs" and called for "this position [to] be reflected in the final outcome of the negotiations".
Elisabeth Köstinger, shadow rapporteur for the EPP group, stressed that "on such a sensitive question it is absolutely necessary that every member state can decide for itself".
She also said "the inability for GMO-producing companies to appeal in a court of law is our goal".
Bart Staes, food safety spokesperson for the Greens/EFA group, warned that "this new opt-out scheme [could be] a slippery slope for easing EU GMO authorisations and does not fundamentally change the flawed EU approval process in itself".
He urged parliament "to fight tooth and nail to maintain [its] position" of granting member states enhanced legal basis to ban GMOs.
If this does not happen, he warned that "the new proposal [will become] a Trojan horse, which risks finally opening the door to genetically-modified organisms across Europe, in spite of citizens' opposition".
MEPs will now enter into negotiations with the Italian presidency of the EU council.