This week the public health and environment committee in the European Parliament, including Labour MEPs Seb Dance and Paul Brannen, supported strong measures to allow member states to limit or ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in their territory, even if they have been authorised at EU level.
Now the Parliament's negotiating team will meet with the Council to finalise the new directive on GMOs. The text adopted by the Parliament is more concrete than the Commission proposal, as it provides member states with the legal basis to ban GMOs beyond health and environment considerations, including socioeconomic reasons, land use and town planning, agricultural policy objectives and public policy issues.
Although the position adopted by the Parliament does not pose any obstacle to continued biotech research in the EU and in fact opens the door for cultivation of thoroughly assessed and legally approved GMOs, it nevertheless secures democratic choice for European citizens.
Mandate of the Parliament is very strong and fully accommodates public concerns related to environmental assessment of GMOs, the right to opt out from GMO cultivation as well as protection of farmland taken out of the scope of GMO cultivation.
The parliament's amendments bring more legal certainty to member states willing to limit or ban GMO cultivation on their territory. In future, they will be able to invoke new grounds: environmental policy, socioeconomic reasons or the need to avoid GMOs in other agricultural products. The report includes most of Labour's priorities, such as the choice of the environmental legal basis, a more extensive list of reasons for banning, the need to have binding measures on coexistence in order to avoid the contamination of traditional cultivations by GMO cultivations, reinforcement of the risk evaluation method by the European Food Safety Evaluation (EFSA) so that it can address particularly the problem of increasing pesticide resistance and far greater transparency in the banning procedure.
The vote brought a defeat for the UK Tories who sit in the only political group which did not support the compromise which excluded biotech companies from the process of limiting or banning GMO cultivation. Once again the Conservatives proved that they value the interests of big agri-food business over the transparency and safety of consumers.