EU member states back compromise to allow GM crops
The European Union tackled deep divisions on genetically modified crops on Wednesday by striking a compromise pact that is likely to make it easier for them to win approval while allowing some countries to ban them.
The deal was welcomed by Britain, which hopes it could allow for more rapid approval of GM crops in the EU, and leading GM opponent France.
"This proposal should help unblock the dysfunctional EU process for approving GM crops for cultivation," Britain's farming and environment ministry said in a statement.
"We want a regime which allows GM crops to be grown when they have passed a robust, science-based safety assessment," the statement added.
France's agriculture ministry also welcomed the "good news", which coincided with a decision by the French constitutional court to uphold a domestic ban on GM maize.
Wednesday's closed-door meeting almost unanimously supported the compromise, diplomats said, with only Belgium abstaining, meaning it is set to get formal approval at a meeting of EU ministers next month in Luxembourg.
After that it would need the backing of the newly elected European Parliament later this year.
Commission spokesman Frederic Vincent said the Commission was "cautiously optimistic", adding that a new law could be officially adopted either later this year or early next year.
TOO MUCH POWER?
Under the proposal, member states who disagree with GM cultivation have to ask the Commission to ask companies to exclude them from requests for authorisation for new crops, rather than directly approaching the companies.
A spokesman for Greece, holder of the rotating EU presidency, which put forward the compromise text, said the requirement that a member state has to make a request via the Commission would ensure maximum legal certainty, while still giving countries the right to refuse GM cultivation.
But environmental campaigners said it gave too much power to companies.
"Governments must be able to ban unwanted and risky GM crops without needing the permission of the companies who profit from them," Adrian Bebb, food campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe, said.