(NaturalNews) The small nation of Cyprus will remain GMO-free under the provisions of a new European Union agreement which essentially gives each member state the authority to decide the issue for themselves.
Environment Minister Nicos Kouyialis has rejected criticism by opposition parties that the recent agreement reached by EU ministers regarding genetically modified foods would pave the way for GM cultivation in Cyprus, putting it down to "misinformation" and hype.
In mid-June, the EU Council of Environment Ministers were able to reach a compromise deal regarding GMOs, which allows member states to decide whether they want them in their own territory.
Kouyialis, who represented Cyprus at the gathering, approved of the agreement and its self-rule provisions. He noted that, after years of intense negotiations on the mater, "we agreed on the current text, because we want Cyprus to be free of genetically modified organisms."
He added further clarification, noting that keeping his country a GMO-free zone "is a long standing position of this government."
Opposition: 'This isn't good enough'
Kouyialis said the EU-wide agreement permits member states to decide on their own whether GMO cultivation is right for them, calling it "a very good basis for the adoption of an effective and legally binding tool to ban GMOs" altogether.
According to the Cyprus Mail website:
At a meeting in Luxembourg, EU environment ministers from 26 of the 28 member states backed the new proposal, which still needs approval from the European Parliament. Only Belgium and Luxembourg abstained.
France, whose constitutional court has already issued a ruling to uphold a domestic ban on GM maize, welcomed the compromise proposal, as did Britain, a supporter of GM crops.
Meanwhile, the European Green Party described the agreement as "a Trojan horse" that would eventually open the door to GMO crops across Europe.
Greek Environment Minister Yannis Maniatis added that Greece won't allow GMO cultivation either, even if it is the only EU member to do so.
Under the agreement, the European Commission would retain the right to ban or approve any particular GMO crop throughout the EU on the basis of scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority, or EFSA. That group would have to be consulted on whether there are risks to humans and the environment regarding the introduction of GMO crop breeds.
However, in cases where the commission would approve a crop, individual EU members could request a ban and would additionally retain the right to ask the commission to request that companies exclude them from any new requests for GMO crop approval.
Despite what appears to be a good deal, the Green Party nevertheless chastised the Cypriot minister for ignoring a unanimous resolution passed by the country's parliament against the EU proposal.
"This agreement effectively opens the way for the cultivation of GMO crops in Europe, a demand of the multinationals selling modified seeds for 15 years," the party said, in a statement.
'What we have today is better'
Green Party officials said they would seek to gain approval of a resolution in parliament that would prohibit the import of GMO products and declare the entire country a GMO-free zone.
AKEL's [Cyprus's Progressive Party of Working People's] environment officer, Christina Nicolaou, also slammed the government for ignoring parliament and the environmentalists over GMOs.
Nicolaou also argued that safeguard clauses in the new proposal don't go far enough in that they don't guarantee any right for Cyprus to remain a GMO-free zone. Rather, she says, the agreement opens the door for multinational Agri-giants to take Cyprus to court if the country attempts to block them.
But Kouyialis disagreed, saying that the new provisions simply took existing regulation which allowed GMO cultivation and amended it to allow countries to prohibit it as well.
"What we have today is much better than what we had yesterday," he said, dismissing local criticism of the proposal as "huge misinformation."