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Feb 4, 2010

GM Crop Policy in EU Member States

On 4 February 2010 Reuters reported on the European Union's plans to give member governments more power to decide themselves whether to support genetically modified (GM) crops.  Listed below is a summary of various country positions.

  • The Dutch agriculture ministry says GM crops can play a part in making agriculture more sustainable and ensuring food security. It believes the EU has to find a better way of approaching GM crops because of their widespread use and cultivation in many other parts of the world.
  • The Netherlands wants the EU to modify the way it deals with GM approvals. It is proposing a system whereby individual governments would have the final say on whether something may be grown in their country.
  •  GM crops are grown only in controlled research experiments in the Netherlands and not for commercial cultivation at present, a ministry spokesman said.
  • Austria has had long-standing objections to GM crops and the public and farmers do not, in general, support GM cultivation. All Austrian provinces have joined the alliance of GMO-free regions in Europe. The country has a large number of small farms, many of them managed organically.


  •  The British government believes there is no scientific case for a blanket ban on the cultivation of GM crops in the UK, but that proposed uses need to be assessed for safety on a case-by-case basis.
  • Various types of GM crop have been grown for research and development at a number of field sites in England since 1993 but there has been no commercial cultivation of GM crops.


  • Spain has since 1998 been growing GM maize (Bt) resistant to corn borers. Farmers sowed 76,000 hectares of it in 2009, or about 22 percent of all maize. They are expected to sow a similar amount this year. All GM maize harvested is used to make animal feed.
  • GM strains of sugar beet are undergoing tests but have yet to be authorised for commercial planting.
  • Spanish farmers are divided over GM crops. Some protest that current laws fail to prevent contamination of GM-free areas, while others complain red tape prevents them from planting new crop varieties and competing with non-European farmers.


  • Italy, where a majority of the population does not believe GM crops are healthy, has set a de-facto moratorium on cultivation of GM crops because the rules on co-existence of traditional and GM crops are yet to be defined, and it resists GM imports.
  • Italy's highest appeals court ordered the agriculture ministry in January to allow a farm to grow genetically modified maize, even in the absence of co-existence rules. The ruling, to be implemented in 90 days, sets a precedent for GM crop cultivation in Italy.

  • The French government halted in 2008 commercial planting of Monsanto's (MON.N) Mon 810 maize, citing concerns over environmental effects.
  • France's cautious line on GM crops reflects their unpopularity in public opinion and the impact of GM opponents, who have regularly sabotaged field tests of GM plants.
  • France criticised as insufficient a favourable opinion last June from the European Food Safety Authority on renewing the EU's licence for Mon 810 maize.  
  • The new German coalition government is cautiously favourable on GMs.
  • Germany banned the commercial production of Mon 810 GM maize in April last year. The government has said the ban would remain until the completion of legal action against it."

For more see: "Factbox -How EU member states approach GMOs," Reuters, 4 February 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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