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June window for progress in GM debate “closing”

By Sarah Hills , 04-Apr-2012

A window of opportunity for a compromise deal over genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe is fading as it is not expected on the agenda of June’s environment council meeting.

EU member states remain split over the cultivation of GM crops in Europe after a blocking minority prevented a Danish Presidency compromise proposal at a meeting last month. The proposal would have allowed member states the possibility to say no to the cultivation of GMO’s on their own territories.

Following the Environment Council (ENVI) meeting in March, it was hoped by some that the Danish presidency would try to strike agreement at the next ENVI meeting on June 11th.

However, a Danish Presidency spokesman told FoodNavigator.com: “I don’t expect it to be on the agenda for the June Council unless some of the member states that voted ‘no’ change their mind.

“But they were pretty firm that they have rejected it.”

He added that the presidency was not actively pushing it either and said: “Certain member states would have to change their position and if they don’t indicate that to us, then it will not be possible.”

Countries blocking the deal included France and Germany.

However there is still time, as the agenda is typically set two or three weeks ahead of such meetings.

Sticking points

Denmark currently holds the presidency of the EU’s council of ministers and had made this issue a priority.

A political agreement would have marked the end of the first reading on this text, and allowed discussions with the European Parliament to start in the second reading.

Some of the arguments against the proposal were that it would conflict with the internal market and WTO rules, although the Commission and the Council Legal Service asserted this was not the case.

It was also suggested that it would be extremely challenging to provide reasons – as required under the proposal - for banning GM crops other than those already addressed by EU rules, such as potential health and environmental risks.

Hopes for a deal

Following the ENVI meeting in March, the presidency stated that a few of the blocking minority countries had showed willing to try to find a solution for June.

And Ida Auken, Presidency of the European Environmental Council, and the Danish minister for environment, said in the same statement: “We will now spend the next month to examine whether there is a possibility that Europe could make a decision in June”.

Similarly, John Dalli, member of the European Commission, responsible for health and consumer policy, also hoped for progress on the deal.

He said at the time: “The aim was clearly expressed to reach a political agreement before the end of this semester and this would constitute a major success for the Presidency, and that's why I remain committed to concluding in the near future an agreement.”

Environment Council meetings take place four times a year.

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