BRUSSELS, Belgium, July
20, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- Reuters, 07/18/03: The European
Commission will say next week that public authorities cannot ban
farmers from planting genetically modified crops, supporting those
farmers who want to embrace the controversial technology.
The EU executive will agree guidelines on Wednesday on how GMO
crops can be grown along with organic and conventional crops, part
of a push to lift the five-year moratorium on GMO crops that is
under attack from the United States.
"A group of farmers in a region can club together and decide
not to grow GMO crops but a regional or national government cannot
create a GMO-free zone," said an EU official on Friday, adding
that the freedom of farmers to choose is enshrined in EU law.
The provincial government of upper Austria has banned genetically
modified organisms but the European Food Safety Authority recently
said there was no justification.
The Commission will take the final decision on the Austrian case
The co-existence debate is seen by many in the biotech industry
as another way for GMO-sceptical countries to postpone lifting the
five-year ban on most GMO crops.
It follows the adoption in principal of rules to label all GMO
food and feed earlier this month, giving consumers the choice between
GM and non-GMO products on supermarket shelves.
But growing GMO crops in Europe still provides a number of headaches.
Who should pay if genetic material is found in organic and conventional
crops -- the farmer or seed producer?
Green groups and a number of member states want binding EU legislation
where the biotech industry would foot the bill, paying for such
But the EU executive says that is up to national authorities.
EU farm ministers will discuss the Commission's guidelines in September.
"The Commission says that member states should check whether
some liability laws need to be changed or updated and also look
at insurance policies," said an EU official.
Meanwhile, the Piedmont regional government in Italy recently ordered
the destruction of 381 hectares of maize fields thought to contain
It is not clear yet who will pay the cost.