MEPs reject 'half-baked' EU Commission GMO opt-out plans

An overwhelming majority of MEPs have voted to reject a Commission proposal enabling member states to opt out of EU GMO authorisations.

By William Louch

28 Oct 2015

A large majority in European Parliament has voted to reject a European Commission proposal that would enable member states to opt out of EU authorisations for genetically modified food. Parliament's environment and food safety committee (ENVI) had rejected it earlier this month.

The Commission proposed giving member states the power to ban commercialisation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on their territory, regardless of whether or not they had been approved at EU level.

579 of 751 MEPs said the Commission should withdraw the proposal, which the Commission refused. Following the refusal, the proposals were put to another vote, this time with 619 MEPs rejecting the plan.


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MEPs welcomed the decision to reject the proposal, with one MEP saying they "have never seen so much consensus" in the European Parliament.

Criticisms focused on the potential impact of the legislation on the internal market, with MEPs urging the Commission to produce a proposal that was "fit for purpose."

Matthias Groote, S&D group spokesperson on the environment, food safety and public health, said, "The Commission should come up with a new proposal that ensures the effective functioning of the EU internal market. At the same time, it should guarantee that member states can effectively restrict or prohibit the use of genetically modified food and feed on their territory if they so wish."

His colleague and rapporteur on the file, Guillaume Balas, added, "It was clearly a bad proposal, rejected both by the Parliament and by member states. There are still no impact assessments on the compatibility of member state opt-out measures with internal market and WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules."

These criticisms were echoed by the Greens/EFA spokesperson, Bart Staes, who described the proposal as "fundamentally flawed," and as having met "consistent opposition of a majority of EU governments and a clear majority of EU citizens."

He continued; "The European Parliament has today urged the EU Commission to go back to the drawing board and come forward with a new proposal that properly addresses the major flaws with the EU authorisation process."

Leading industry figures have also highlighted the inadequacy of the proposal. Leticia Gonçalves, Chair of the Agri-Food Council of EuropaBio, said; "We welcome the European Parliament’s rejection of the Commission’s patchwork proposal to allow national bans on the use of safe, EU-approved products on the basis of non-scientific criteria."

EuropaBio also urged the Commission to, "take heed of the vote by the democratically elected Parliament and withdraw its harmful and disproportionate proposal."

In spite of the opposition, it is unclear whether the Commission will withdraw the proposal.

EU Food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said, "I would like to confirm the Commission believes this proposal is the right way of addressing the challenges in relation to the decision-making process on GMOs at European Union level. The Commission will not withdraw its proposal."

However, if the Commission continues to decline to withdraw the proposal, national governments at European Council level - who have strongly criticised the report - may well kill the proposal by rejecting it.

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