Nineteen EU states vote against GM maize proposal

Commission to allow crop cultivation despite opposition by countries, including Ireland

Minister for European Affairs Paschal Donohue said that Ireland voted against the GM  proposal because this is an issue of concern.   Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Minister for European Affairs Paschal Donohue said that Ireland voted against the GM proposal because this is an issue of concern. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

 

The European Union strayed into the contentious issue of genetically-modified crops (GM) today, with member states opting not to back a proposal to allow the cultivation of a GM maize seed product in the European Union.

However, the intricate EU legislative system means that the European Commission will nonetheless go ahead with its plan to allow the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) maize.

Ireland was one of nineteen countries who indicated their opposition to the approval of the crop at a meeting in Brussels today. Britain, Spain , Finland, Estonia and Sweden were in favour.

Following the meeting, Minister for European Affairs Paschal Donohue said that Ireland voted against the proposal because it recognises that this is an issue of concern and public sensitivity across many member states.

“We believe it is necessary that a framework is in place that if countries recognise concern on an issue of such sensitivity that they have the ability to opt out of it.

“ In the absence of that framework being in place in relation to GM crops, Ireland made the decision to vote against the proposal today,” Mr Donohue said.

The European Union has only ever legislated a handful of genetically-modified crops to be cultivated in Europe, though it imports GMOs for food and feed use.

Its approval for the cultivation of the Amflora GM potato was overturned by the European Court of Justice last year , which found that the European Commission had substantially altered its original proposal to approve the product.

The product under discussion at today’s meeting is of particular significance to countries such as Spain, which was in favour of authorising the product. The product is already imported into the European Union.

The European Food Standards Authority has declared the maize variety safe, but a majority of countries decided not to back its approval today.

Speaking ahead of the vote, EU Commissioner Tonio Borg, told ministers that if there was no majority in favour of authorisation, the Commission would adopt the proposal, which has been under consideration by the European Commission for 13 years.

He pointed out that there was no EU-wide ban on GM crops.

The European Union has also launched a proposal that would allow member states, under certain conditions, to refuse to cultivate GM crops on its territory which have been approved by the European Union.

The issue of GM crops is also likely to surface in EU-US trade talks which began under the Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union last year.