European Parliament nixes EU GMO opt-out proposal

European Parliament nixes EU GMO opt-out proposal

Proposal to allow EU member countries to restrict sale or use of EU-approved GMO food or feed fails

A draft EU law that would enable any EU member state to restrict or prohibit the sale and use of EU-approved GMO food or feed on its territory was rejected by the European Parliament Wednesday.

Related: Soy growers: EU should end biotech 'opt out' policy before it starts

According to the Parliament, members are concerned that the law might prove unworkable or that it could lead to the reintroduction of border checks between pro- and anti-GMO countries. They called on the European Commission to table a new proposal.

Proposal to allow EU member countries to restrict sale or use of EU-approved GMO food or feed fails (Thinkstock/DarcyMaulsby)

"Over the last few months, serious concerns have been expressed about the lack of any impact assessment, the proposal's compatibility with the single market, and also whether it is actually feasible," said Italian Parliament member Giovanni La Via. "There was no evaluation of the potential consequences or of other available options," he said.

According to La Via, the proposal could have negative consequences for EU ag, which is dependent on GMO feed sources. It also could impact imports, he said, and it may be ineligible for implementation based on border control concerns.

The proposal, which would amend existing EU legislation to enable member states to restrict or prohibit the use of EU-approved genetically modified food and feed on their territory, was tabled by the EU Commission April 22.

The Commission suggested that this proposal should be modelled on another EU law, on GMOs intended for cultivation, which entered into force in early April 2015. This allows member states to ban the cultivation of EU-approved GMOs on their territory.

But whereas cultivation necessarily takes place on a member state's territory, GMO trade crosses borders, which means that a national "sales and use" ban could be difficult or impossible to enforce without reintroducing border checks on imports, the Parliament said.

Despite the vote, European Commissioner for Health and Food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said that the European Commission will not withdraw the legislative proposal, which will be discussed by EU ministers.

Echoing U.S. concerns
Closely watched by U.S. ag interests, the vote on Wednesday was welcome news for the American Soybean Association, which also highlighted concerns that the regulation could have had a significant impact on grain exports.

Related: European Commission considers allowing EU states to ban biotech food and feed

"One of the unifying principles of the EU is to provide a single market, both within Europe and as a partner in in global commerce," said ASA President Wade Cowan. "Enabling each of its 28 member states to go rogue on GMO acceptance, based on societal or political concerns, is hardly a unifying strategy for success."

Europe is a top-five market for American soybeans, Cowan said.

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