Proposals to let EU states decide for themselves whether to grow or ban genetically modified (GM) crops suffered a big setback Sept. 27 as many of the bloc’s largest governments confirmed they opposed the plans.
To pass, the proposals put forward by the European Commission in July will need the support of a majority of European Union states and lawmakers under the bloc’s weighted voting system, which gives larger states a greater say in the final decision.
At a meeting of EU farm ministers in Brussels, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain all expressed grave doubts over the viability of the plan, and questioned its conformity with the bloc’s internal market rules.
“I don’t think that we can expect a compromise or a consensus over the next couple of months – a great deal more work is going to have to be done,” Belgian Agriculture Minister Sabine Laruelle, who chai red the meet ing, said afterwards.
Belgium, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU, had asked the ministers whether they felt the proposals were compatible with the bloc’s internal market and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
“The German reply was very short indeed – ‘no, and no’,” an EU source in the meeting told reporters.
France, Spain and Italy said they want decisions on GM crops to continue to be taken collectively at EU level, as at present.
“We believe that moving to national decisions would represent a breach (of EU decision- making) that would be dangerous for economic reasons, health reasons and for political and social reasons,” French Farm Minister Bruno Le Maire told journalists before the meeting.
Even Belgium broke with the tradition of remaining impartial as holders of the EU presidency, after Laruelle said at a press conference that the country’s position was “similar to that expressed by France and others.”
Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands were among the few countries to express support for the plans during the debate, sources said.
Britain said it needed greater legal clarity on the proposals before taking a position.