Genetically modified crops now face the prospect of being banned outright in the EU.
The potential prohibition, which still needs European Council approval, comes after MEPs overwhelmingly backed a draft bill on Tuesday to allow member states to halt the cultivation of GM produce.
Individual countries would simply be able to cite environmental reasons for doing so.
European Member of Parliament Corinne Lepage said: In the original directive, there were plans to study so called reception points. The places for planting. These studies were never carried out. But in Europe such reception points can be very different. In Italy or Sweden for example, environments are not the same, even the plants are different and local considerations are not the same. So my proposal is to look at these type of considerations which cannot be assessed for Europe as a whole.’‘
In Belgium, opposition to GM in French speaking Wallonia is strong compared to the country’s Dutch region of Flanders where authorities are more tolerant. The genetically modified potatoes grown in a Flemish field we visited don’t need pesticides. Fiercely opposed to such methods anti-GM activists stormed the field about a month ago. Scientist Marc De Loose, however, insists their fears are unfounded and there is no risk of contamination.
“For this field trial, we took all precautions to prevent this outcrossing. I know activists are claiming that there will be outcrossing. For example we had questions about honey bees. But honey bees, you have to know they do not fly on potato.”
But, what about other crops, not just potatoes.
“Last year we made an experiment. And we clearly demonstrated that a distance of 50 meters between a GM (maize) field and a non GM field is absolutely sufficient,” De Loose added.
Back in Belgium’s French speaking Wallonia, the GM buffer zone is 600 metres, 12 times more than in Flanders.
But what if one day genetically modified potatoes become common place in Belgium. How would people like their French Fries. With or without GM?
“ Without, definitely,” one woman told us.