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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Council discussed cultivation of genetically modified organisms

The 3075th Council meeting on Environment held in Brussels on 14 March 2011 exchanged views on possible justifications that would allow member states to restrict the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their territory. A number of delegations felt that this list of possible grounds for restricting GMO cultivation was a good basis for further work on the proposed law. Some wished to see a non-exhaustive list of justifications for national restrictions included in the text of the act to increase legal certainty. It was asked to add the protection of biodiversity and agricultural structures, socioeconomic factors and new scientific knowledge on the risks of GMO cultivation to the list of possible grounds. On the other hand, some delegations were concerned about the legal compatibility of some grounds in the suggested list with WTO and internal market rules. Doubts were voiced as to whether justifying a ban by general environmental policy objectives could stand, given that authorised GMOs have already undergone an environmental risk assessment. Some said that an overlap between these two must be avoided. A couple of delegations reiterated their concern about the overall workability of the proposal. Responding to the request of several member states, the Council legal service indicated that the list of possible grounds for national measures set by the Commission is being examined and that an assessment of its compatibility with the internal market and WTO rules will be presented in order to facilitate future work on the proposal in the ad-hoc working party and in the other bodies of the Council. Member states are currently examining legal opinions on the draft as well as a list of possible grounds on which member states could base their decision to restrict GMO cultivation.

Source: Council of Ministers