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GMO victory: European states free to 'opt out' of biotechnology

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(NaturalNews) A regulatory scheme that would have barred individual European nations from deciding for themselves whether or not to allow the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been rejected after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to scrap it.

The European Commission had passed a law prohibiting individual EU member nations from banning any GMOs that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had already declared to be safe. This was quickly met with resistance by European nations such as France, which lean more toward opposing biotechnology.

Citing concerns about GMO safety and crop contamination, these countries sought more autonomous control over the GMO approval process with less centralized decision making. And they ultimately secured this with support from the European Conservatives and Reformists political bloc, which amended the law to allow countries more individual control.

According to The Guardian, an earlier compromise with pro-GMO countries like Spain and the UK would have only allowed European countries a two-year window in which to ban GMOs. The compromise also would have allowed biotech companies the opportunity to sue countries that tried to ban GMOs.

"The commission's compromise with pro-GM countries... would have allowed countries a two-year window in which they could ban individual GM crops for reasons such as planning and agricultural objectives," explains The Guardian.

"But these could have been challenged under the bloc's internal market guidelines, and any governments wanting to ban GM would first have had to try to strike an 'opt out' deal with biotech companies, to exclude their territory from GM crop cultivation zones."

European nations can individually ban GMOs for health, environmental reasons

Now that the specifics guiding how GMOs are to be banned have been clarified, European countries can cite both health and environmental concerns as valid reasons to ban GMOs. And neither EFSA nor the Commission can rule otherwise.

The new amendment "will leave GM cultivation firmly in the hands of national governments, who can decide for themselves, as long as the right protections are in place, whether they want to grow GM or not," stated Paul Brennan, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the UK Labour Party's European spokesman on agriculture.

UK Conservative Party environmental spokeswoman Julie Girling agrees. She told the media that the opt-out protocols are easy, swift, and bulletproof from a legal perspective. This means that countries which oppose Monsanto's genetically modified MON810 corn, for instance, now have a remedy against its planting, even though the crop was declared legal by the Commission.

"We want to keep this issue out of the courts as companies are much more likely to challenge a member states' decision that is unclear," added Liberal-Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder. The proposals, she stated, are merely "taking power away from the commission and giving it back to member states."

Germany is already onboard, seeking to ban GMO crop cultivation before the 2015 harvest. The nation's farm minister told Reuters that bloc countries should have the freedom to ban GMOs for "social-economic reasons," something Germany hopes to do once the European Parliament irons out the details.

"MEPs have today voted to strengthen the hand of member states or regions wanting to opt-out of EU authorisations of GMOs," stated Bart Stae, a spokesman for the European Parliament Green Party. "No must mean no: countries wanting to opt out of GM authorisations must have a totally legally watertight framework for doing so."

Currently, there is only one GM crop currently being grown in Europe: MON810 corn. And Spain and Portugal are reportedly the only countries growing this transgenic crop.






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