On 13 January in the European Parliament, MEPs voted in favour of the legislative amendment that will enable member states to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It is of extremely high strategic importance that Hungarian agriculture remains GMO free, as also stated in the country’s constitution.

During the course of negotiations that have spanned a period of over four years, Hungary has maintained throughout that we should have in our possession an efficient tool that makes banning GMOs simpler than under the current regulations. Hungary has played a determinative role in the birth of the new agreement.

As a result of the amendment, member states will now be able to ban or restrict the public cultivation of GMOs in one of two ways. According to the first possibility, if requested to do so by a member state, those applying for permission to introduce a genetically modified organism may amend their application so that the EU permit excludes all or part of the territory of the member state in question. The original application is therefore modified and member states may then vote on the amended resolution or plan.

When applying the second option, member states are free to decide on banning or restricting the cultivation of GMOs that have already been approved simply by presenting their reasons to the Commission. It is left to the discretion of the member state whether it takes into account any observations put forward by the Commission.

Member states may cite their national policy with relation to the use of farmland, their wish to assure that GMOs are not present in other products, in addition to agricultural policy goals or social and/or economic reasons. This means that environmental and health reasons are now not the only basis for banning the cultivation of GMOs.

According to the previous legislation it was extremely difficult to introduce and maintain a moratorium because on the one hand it required extremely expensive scientific studies, to which the owners of GMO varieties were often not prepared to provide samples of their patented seeds, while on the other hand proposals for lifting bans have until now been decided by other member states – including many with practically no agricultural sector of their own -  based on the opinion of a scientific advisory body that has so far always taken a standpoint in favour of GMOs, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA). As a result, it has proven almost impossible to acquire a qualified majority against Commission proposals to lift GMO bans, although Hungary has succeeded in doing so twice in recent years.

Thanks to the legislative amendment adopted by the European Parliament today, it will now be much easier for member states to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms.

(Ministry of Agriculture)