Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

European Parliament Opposes National Bans on GMO-Food Imports

  • EU assembly says proposal threatens single European market
  • Six-month-old initiative has faced widespread criticism

The European Parliament rejected a draft law that would give individual countries in Europe scope to ban imports of genetically modified food and animal feed, potentially killing an initiative that was greeted with widespread criticism.

The European Union assembly voted against granting EU governments a right to opt out of rules making the 28-nation bloc a single market for gene-altered food and feed. With Europe split over the safety of gene-modified organisms, the European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, proposed the draft law in April in a bid to give opponents of GMOs fewer grounds to hold up EU approvals urged by supporters of the technology.

The commission proposal was modeled on European legislation approved three months earlier -- following more than four years of deliberations -- that lets national governments go their own way on the cultivation of gene-modified crops. The EU Parliament’s rejection on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, of the food and feed measure reflects concerns it would have been a step too far in denting a free-trade tenet of the bloc.

“Member states should shoulder their responsibilities and take a decision together at EU level, instead of introducing national bans,” said Giovanni La Via, an Italian who chairs the 751-seat assembly’s environment committee, which earlier this month recommended throwing out the draft legislation on GMO food and feed. The commission said it would pursue talks on the proposal with EU governments, which also have a say on the matter.

The moment it was unveiled six months ago, the commission proposal drew rebukes from anti- and pro-GMO groups as well as from the U.S. government.

Environmental organization Greenpeace called the initiative “a farce,” saying the opt-out option wouldn’t stand up in court against EU free-market rules. The European Association for Bioindustries, whose members include GMO manufacturers, said the proposal would limit choice for livestock farmers, weaken the EU economy and rattle innovative companies’ confidence in the bloc’s approval procedures.

The U.S. government said the draft legislation would enable EU nations to ignore “science-based safety and environmental determinations,” would fragment the European market and was inconsistent with current trans-Atlantic talks on a free-trade agreement.

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