Many EU member countries have opted out part of or all of their territory from the cultivation of genetically modified foods. GM crops, largely grown in America and Asia, are having a difficult time entering the European market characterized by widespread civilian opposition.
Growth of genetically modified crops is authorized as per EU regulations. However, individual member states are allowed to opt out exclusions for their territories. Of the 28 nation member states of the EU, 19 have sought to exclude the crops from their land.
Commission spokesperson Enrico Brivio confirmed on Sunday that he had received 19 opt out requests filed before the expiry of a Saturday deadline. The EU commission had given member states up until Oct. 3 to notify the EU of their requests to be excluded from modified crops grown by companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow and Pioneer.
The 19 countries included: the Wallonia region, Bulgaria, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Croatia, France, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Netherlands and Slovenia.
Commenting on the large number of countries against GM crops, Greenpeace EU Food Policy Director Franziska Achterberg said, “A growing number of governments are rejecting the commission’s drive for GM crop approvals. They don’t trust the EU safety assessments and are rightly taking action to protect their agriculture and food.”
Brivio said that the requests would be sent to the companies majoring in genetically modified crop to have a look at them.
Under EU law, though the Commission maintains sole authority for approving the exclusion requests, copies of the requests have to be sent over to the companies against whom they are filed.
Monsanto, the only company already growing its modified commercial MON 810 maize in Europe, is one of the companies against whose products the opt outs seek. The first exclusion to its modified crop was granted to Latvia and Greece in August. Monsanto responded then by saying it would abide by them, even though they were not based on scientific evidence.
The laws allowing company involvement in requests by sovereign states have come under sharp criticism from environmental groups who say the system is inherently weak and open to abuse through court challenges by biotech companies.
Commission spokesperson responded by saying the laws provided "a necessary legal framework to a complex issue.”
The growth of GM foods has continued to elicit widespread opposition. Even in the US where the crops are grown, environmental groups are pushing for their labeling in retail stores. The opt out requests are a stepping stone for EU countries taking a firm stand against manipulation by companies of their natural resources.