EU to allow member countries to decide policies on GM crops
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The European Union will allow member countries to make their own decisions on whether to allow genetically modified (GM) crops in a compromise deal struck Thursday after years of fraught discussion and widespread public unease over safety issues.
"All member states, with the exception of Belgium and Luxembourg, have given their agreement," Greek Agriculture Minister Ioannis Maniatis said after a meeting with his EU colleagues.
The key point of the accord gives individual EU states the right to ban GM crops – even if they have already won clearance on health and safety grounds at the EU level.
Under normal EU procedures, approval granted in Brussels means member states have no further say in the matter and must comply.
In practice, however, widespread public unease over GM foods and fierce opposition from environmentalists, especially in countries such as France, have resulted in GM approval requests in Brussels being blocked for years.
Last year, US agro-chemical giant Monsanto abandoned efforts to get new approvals, saying it was no longer worth the effort.
To satisfy both sides, the agreement envisages that when a company now applies for GM clearance, a member country can cite objections other than those connected to health and safety – such as concern over its impact on the environment or law and order issues – so as to be excluded from EU approval.
At the same time, those countries that want to allow GM crops will be free to approve them.
"The new system guarantees that the member states have a choice," French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal said.
Luxembourg's Carole Dieschburg said she feared that the deal will allow the GM companies too much leeway and warning "of a wave of [GM] approvals."
Cultivation of GM foods stokes widespread suspicion in the 28-nation EU on health and environmental grounds.
GM crops, however, have won repeated safety approvals and are imported into the EU in large amounts for animal feed.
Several GM crops have won EU approval but only Monsanto's MON810 maize is still grown after it was first cleared in 1998. Two other corn types, plus BASF's Amflora potato, are no longer grown.
Thursday's accord now goes for approval to the European Parliament, where it still may face considerable opposition.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)