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Consumer rights, long-term budget, Schengen feature on July plenary agenda

GMOs - more power to member states

MEPs  voted Tuesday on a proposal to allow EU countries to ban or restrict the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on environmental grounds, giving them better legal protection in the event of challenges from trading partners opposed to a ban. "Our proposal offers states a solid, legal basis," said French Liberal Corinne Lepage, Parliament's draftswoman for the rules.

"This vote is a clear signal from the Parliament to the Council and Commission: the EU authorisation system should be maintained but it should be acknowledged that some agricultural and environmental effects, as well as the socio-economic impact linked to contamination, can be cited by Member States to justify a ban or restriction on GMO cultivation," she said after a vote in Committee.

What will change?

Member states will be able to restrict or ban GMO cultivation on agro-environmental grounds, for example pesticide resistance, the invasiveness of certain crops and a threat to biodiversity. This was not supported by the European Commission, which wanted to allow the ban only on socio-economic, ethical and moral grounds.

Member states will not be able to ban them on health grounds. This is already part of the current EU authorisation process.

MEPs expect the inclusion of a ban specifically on environmental grounds to give member states better legal protection in the event of challenges to the GMO ban via the World Trade Organisation.

The changes won't alter the safety approval procedure for GM crops, which is carried out by the European Commission on the basis of an independent risk assessment from the European Food Safety Authority.

More on GMOs

GMOs authorised for consumption in EU: cotton, maize, bacterial protein, yeast strains, oilseed rape, potato, soybean, sugar beet


GMOs authorised for cultivation: 1 variety each of potato, maize


Countries using "safe-guard" clause to ban GMOs: Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Luxembourg


GM food makes 61% Europeans uneasy; 21% think it is safe; 53% think GMOs can be harmful (Eurobarometer/October 2010)


Most popular in the US - 93% of soybeans 86% of maize (USDA)