London (13.8.15) – Following the EU decision in effect to allow Member States to decide for themselves whether or not to permit the cultivation on their own territory of approved GM-crops, the European Commission proposed allowing individual EU countries to restrict or prohibit imported GM-products even if they have been approved by the bloc as a whole (1). The proposal has been explained in some detail (2) with the European Commission explaining that “The Commission has therefore concluded that the legal framework for decision-making on genetically modified (GM) food and feed needs to be adapted, and proposes to extend to GM food and feed the solution agreed by the European Parliament and the Council on GMO cultivation. The Member States would thus be allowed to restrict or prohibit the use of genetically modified food and feed on their territory, despite it being authorised at EU level. Stakeholders have been critical of the proposal, claiming that it jeopardises the internal market, would cause serious distortions to competition and leave measures taken by Member States vulnerable to legal challenge” (3).

The proposal was met with opposition from both sides of the GM-argument. Including GM-products in both human food and animal feed in such a new regime would badly upset trading partners resentful of interference with existing treading activities; the United States, in particular, is urging the EU freely to admit to U.S. GM crops as part of a planned EU-U.S. free trade agreement.

A new draft EU law that would enable any member state to restrict or prohibit the use of EU-approved GMO food or feed on its territory was strongly opposed by MEPs from all political groups in a debate in the European Parliament. Members were concerned that the draft did not include an impact assessment, that member state measures might not be compatible with single market or WTO rules and that the proposal might prove unworkable (4).

“We need a new proposal”

“Lots of terms used in the Commission proposal are legally undefined” said Gesine Meissner (ALDE, DE). “Too much is being left to chance, and this could be harmful to the internal market. The implementation of this proposal would be impossible. We should reject it, but if nothing follows from the Commission, this doesn’t help to solve the problem. We must have a new, better proposal, or we could come up with a counter-proposal on our own” she said.

“I think that this is to ensure a quick and easy authorization procedure rather than truly addressing the problem” said Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL, IE): This proposal is a dishonest one, offers a false solution to a problem. I agree that we should reject this half-baked proposal from the European Commission which is totally flawed. We need to start again, to have a new text that would ensure that GMOs cannot be authorized when a majority of member states are against them”

“There is no plan B”

“I ask you to reconsider your position towards this proposal” said the European Commission representative Ladislav Miko. “Our Commissioner gave a very clear answer already: we don’t have any plan B for this proposal (…) If the proposal is rejected, we will stay in the current situation”. Mr. Miko said that the flexible definition of the term “use” is intentional, in order to accommodate differing practices in the member states. He dismissed the alleged effects on the single market: “in the past, safety clauses were invoked several times, and this was never considered a problem for the internal market” he said.

Next steps

The Environment Committee will vote on the proposal on 12-13 October. The file will then be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole at the 26-29 October plenary session in Strasbourg.


1. A single market, they promised. CropGen (20.4.15) (

2. Imports of GM food and feed. Right of Member States to opt out. Briefing. European Commission (3.7.15) (

3. Philip Blenkinsop (22.4.15). EU proposes GM opt-out for members, angering pro and anti-GM camps. Reuters (

4. GMO imports: MEPs object to draft law allowing national bans, call for plan B. European Parliament News (16.7.15) (




  A bad proposal from the European Commission