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New GMO rules get final Council approval

Council of the EU
  • 02/03/2015
  • 10:30
  • Press release
  • 84/15
  • Environment
  • Agriculture
02/03/2015
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New EU rules allowing member states to ban or restrict the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on their territory were formally adopted by the Council on 2 March 2015. They will enter into force 20 days following their publication in the Official Journal of the EU.  

"The new rules will give member states the freedom of choice: they can decide whether they want genetically modified crops to be cultivated on their territory or not. This is in line with the subsidiarity principle and respects citizens' and farmers' preferences", said Jānis Dūklavs, the Latvian minister for agriculture and President of the Council.  

Two ways for opting out

The new directive gives member states more flexibility on the cultivation of genetically modified crops under certain conditions at two distinct points in time: 

  • during the authorisation procedure when a member state can ask to amend the geographical scope of the application
  • after a GMO has been authorised a member state may ban or restrict the cultivation of the crop on grounds such as those related to environmental or agricultural policy objectives, or other compelling grounds such as town and country-planning, land use, socio-economic impacts, co-existence and public policy  

Member states will be allowed to review their decision and ask for their territory or parts of it to be reintegrated into the geographical scope of a GMO authorisation.  

Under the old rules member states could provisionally ban or restrict the use of a GMO on their territory only if they have new evidence that the organism concerned constitutes a risk to human health or the environment or in the case of an emergency.  

Avoiding cross-border contamination 

The new rules also provide that member states in which GMOs are cultivated must take care to avoid cross-border contamination into neighbouring member states in which these GMOs are banned. This does not apply if particular geographical conditions make these measures unnecessary.