European GMOs: which side are you on?


Last week, the European Commission approved 19 GMOs, the first authorizations since 2013. Shortly after, different reactions showed up, with some people more willing to celebrate than others.

While GMOs are widely grown in America and Asia, Europe is still reluctant to this new technology. These authorizations came after a year of European blockage. But now, the approval procedure has been reviewed, in a process that irritated both pro and anti-GMO groups. The new legislation allows member states to limit or forbid GM trades even after their authorization by the EU as a whole, which means that European countries can still individually decide to ban these products for food and feed on their territory. This seems surprising as a European norm should apply to all member countries.

Nineteen products have been approved: 10 new authorizations for GMOs, 7 for the renewal of already existing authorizations and 2 more granted for GMO cut flowers (not for food or feed use). These GMOs have gone through a full authorization procedure, including a favorable scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The majority of the authorizations went to maize and soybean, but cotton, oilseed rape and carnations also received their fair share. The authorizations are valid for 10 years, and any product produced from these GMOs will be subject to the EU’s labelling and traceability rules. The GM authorizations will be added to the existing list of the 58 GMOs authorized in the EU for food and feed uses (covering maize, cotton, soybean, oilseed rape, sugar beet).

From left to right: Carnation Moonlite and Moonaqua, two of the approved GMOs. Source: Florigene
From left to right: Carnation Moonlite and Moonaqua, two of the new approved GMOs. Source: Florigene

However, GMO opponents soon expressed their rejection to the approvals. The fast-food chain Chipotle, specialized in Mexican food, has become the first big company to announce that all its menus will be GMO-free, and is no isolated case. Many brands such as Ben&Jerry’s amongst others also joined the movement and adopted an anti-GMO marketing strategy.

Moreover, Greenpeace stated that the agreement has only been reached in order to please US corporations. In fact, the approved products come from well-known GMOs developers from US but also from Germany: Monsanto, BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dupont’s Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences.

So, despite what Forbes stated last year in the article “the debate about GMO safety is over, thanks to a new trillion-meal study”, the discussion is in fact anything but over. Furhtermore, around 40 GMO applications still in the European Commission’s waiting list should be soon reviewed.

In the end, will we have a free-trade GMO Europe?

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