The new legislation, which will come into force this spring, will allow individual countries to approve the use of GM crops and animals within their territory or ban or restrict their use.
IFST chief executive Jon Poole hoped the ruling will pave the way for GM crops in this country. “We are really pleased to see that the European Council has decided to give Member States more flexibility over how they wish to deal with GMOs within their own territories,” Poole told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “We hope that this change in legislation will ultimately lead to the controlled growth of GM crops in the UK.”
Positive for the UK
While the announcement was positive for the UK, Poole urged other European nations to thoroughly examine the now significant scientific evidence before making any decision to ban GM crops in their territories.
The IFST had always highlighted the important role food scientists and technologists play in the responsible introduction of GM techniques, he added. “We know that the UK scientific community, with its high levels of expertise in this field, will play a key role in the future introduction of GM crops through continuing research and ensuring open communication of the issues from a balanced, scientific viewpoint.”
Approve or ban
Member States will be allowed to approve or ban GMOs on environmental grounds, in addition to the risks to health and the environment, as assessed by the European Food Safety Authority. Other grounds for a ban included: town and country planning requirements, socio-economic impact and avoiding the unintended consequences of GMOs in other products and farm policy objectives.
Environment secretary, Liz Truss, anticipated the EU announcement at the Oxford Farming Conference in the first week of January. “I want to see decision-making over GM crops made at country level,” Truss told the conference on Wednesday, January 7. “GM has a role to play in the UK. If we look at what has happened in the US, GM has proved more environmentally friendly in using less water and less pesticides.”
Deploying GM technology will be essential if the UK is to compete in world food markets, she added.
At present, a variety of GM maize, MON810, is the only GMO cultivated in the EU. The GM potato variety Amflora was banned by the EU General Court in 2013, after an initial approval by the European Commission.
Read more about the EU ruling here.