European fields could be planted with
genetically modified (GM) crops from next month, under a European Union plan to overhaul its approval system for the biotech products.
Under proposals due to be adopted on 13 July, the European Commission will be given greater freedom to approve new GM varieties for cultivation. In return EU governments would be able to decide whether to grow them.
Commercial GM planting in Europe last year covered less than 100,000 hectares, compared with 134 million hectares globally. In Europe, the GMs are mostly in Spain, one a high starch potato, the other maize.
Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner John Dalli’s proposal will include allow countries to set their own technical standards for GM farming, for example requiring buffer zones.
The legislative change would have to be agreed by a qualified majority of EU governments and the European Parliament. If the plan fails to pass, it could mean more years of political arguing.
However, GM cultivation bans are already in place in Italy, Austria and Hungary, and the EU executive is optimistic its guidelines will win majority support.
European public opinion is mostly against having GM organisms in food, but crops can also be used for energy and construction materials.