Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is aware that cultivation of GM crops is a source of concerns in some Member States. This is why the Commission made in July 2010(1) a proposal to allow Member States to restrict or ban the cultivation of GMOs on their territory for other grounds than risks to health and the environment. The European Parliament adopted a first reading position on this proposal in July 2011. Unfortunately despite huge efforts in 2012, a blocking minority prevented the adoption of a Council position, and the discussions remained blocked until very recently. However during the discussions in the Council on 11 February 2014 related to maize 1507(2), many Member States asked to resume the discussions. As a result, the Greek Presidency presented a new compromise proposal which was considered as a good basis to resume the discussions by most of the Ministers in the Environmental Council on the 3 March 2014, with the hope of reaching a political agreement under the Greek Presidency.
Under existing legislation, Member States may use the provisions of the safeguard clause on a given GMO, if they provide enough evidence of a risk to health and to the environment (Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC(3) and Article 34 of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003(4)) and for duly justified coexistence reasons. The Commission proposal, if adopted, would allow extending that possibility to other legitimate considerations, such as socioeconomic concerns, town and country planning, land use, general environmental policy objective different to risks. The proposal needs to be adopted in order to allow for such legitimate considerations to be taken into account.