In July, the European Commission (EC) officially proposed to give member states the freedom to veto cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops without having to back their decision with scientific evidence on new risks. The reform's goal is to hand back responsibility to individual states and speed up pending authorizations. Anti-GM countries can now choose to opt out whereas biotech-friendly countries can cultivate new GM varieties. However, there is no guarantee it will work. “We are not against freedom for member states, the problem is how the principle is articulated,” says Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, director for agricultural biotech at EuropaBio. The proposal stands on two legs: an amendment to directive 2001/18 that must gain the approval of the council of ministers and the European Parliament, and an EC recommendation on coexistence, already effective. The first legalizes national or local bans on growing, the second one achieves the same result by conceding that countries wanting to keep 'contamination' levels well below the labeling threshold can enforce wide isolation distances between GM and conventional or organic fields. “It's a Pandora's box. We are concerned it will create legal uncertainty and unpredictability for farmers and operators,” says du Marchie Sarvaas. The reform doesn't target imports of GM material for food or feed, whose approvals are also stalled.
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Meldolesi, A. EU states free to ban GM crops. Nat Biotechnol 28, 769 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0810-769c