EU Parliament Allows Member States to Ban GMOs for Environmental Reasons

6 July 2011: The European Parliament has voted for a proposal that would allow EU countries to ban or restrict the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) based on environmental grounds, such as pesticide resistance, the invasiveness of certain crops and a threat to biodiversity.

The proposal would add environmental reasons to list of grounds based on which member States could restrict or ban GMO cultivation previously developed by the EU Commission as part of a reform of the current Directive regulating GMO approval at EU level. The proposal is expected to give member States better legal protection in the event of challenges to a decision to ban GMOs under international trade law.

While the changes will not alter the safety approval procedure for GM crops, which is carried out by the European Commission on the basis of an independent risk assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), member States may carry out their own assessments for environmental risks or cite insufficient data as reason for banning GMO crops. The EU Parliament still needs to vote on the amendment of the GMO Directive as a whole before the new legislation can be finalized. [EU Parliament Press Release] [Report: Outcome of the European Parliament's first reading of proposal]