BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) — European Union politicians have backed a plan to allow member countries to ban genetically modified crops on their soil, even if the crops are approved in the trading bloc.
The decision increases the chance that their use will remain limited on the continent.
GM crops have divided opinion in Europe. Opposition persists in many countries, including France and Germany, while Britain favours them.
A previous compromise endorsed this year by EU ministers would have required negotiation with the relevant companies if a country wanted to ban a GM crop that had been approved for EU-wide use.
The plan voted through Parliament Nov. 11 would leave out that stage and allows member countries to ban GM crops on environmental grounds. It drew praise from GM opponents.
“Today’s vote would give European countries a legally solid right to ban GM cultivation in their territory, making it difficult for the biotech industry to challenge such bans in court,” said Marco Contiero, Green-peace European Unit’s agriculture policy director.
Left-leaning politicians also welcomed the vote, which kicks off formal negotiations on a legal text, saying it strengthened the grounds for opting out of GM cultivation.
Conservatives were opposed.
“The Parliament’s position on GM cultivation risks inflicting untold damage to robust, science-based policymaking in Europe,” said Julie Girling, environment spokesperson for the Conservatives in the European Parliament.
“We strongly oppose these proposals and voted against them today. We will continue to oppose them.”
The European Commission said in a statement it was confident the law could be in place in 2015, once it had received final endorsement from Parliament and member states.
GM cultivation has provoked opposition in Europe for years. EU authorities have approved only two GM crops for commercial cultivation, and one was later blocked by a court.
That leaves Monsanto’s GM corn MON810 as the only GM crop grown in Europe, where it has been cultivated in Spain and Portugal for a decade.