The European Council has adopted new rules allowing Member States to ban or restrict the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on their territory.

“The new rules will give Member States the freedom of choice: they can decide whether they want genetically modified crops to be cultivated on their territory or not. This is in line with the subsidiarity principle and respects citizens’ and farmers’ preferences,” said Jānis Dūklavs, the Latvian minister for agriculture and President of the Council.

The new rules gives Member States more flexibility on the cultivation of genetically modified crops under certain conditions at two distinct points in time, the EU Council said.

The Council said that the first point in time is during the authorisation procedure when a Member State can ask to amend the geographical scope of the application.

The second time will be “after a GMO has been authorised; a Member State may ban or restrict the cultivation of the crop on grounds such as those related to environmental or agricultural policy objectives, or other compelling grounds such as town and country-planning, land use, socio-economic impacts, co-existence and public policy,” it says.

“Member States will be allowed to review their decision and ask for their territory or parts of it to be reintegrated into the geographical scope of a GMO authorisation.

“Under the old rules member states could provisionally ban or restrict the use of a GMO on their territory only if they have new evidence that the organism concerned constitutes a risk to human health or the environment or in the case of an emergency,” the Council said.

Member States in which GMOs are cultivated must take care to avoid cross-border contamination into neighbouring Member States in which these GMOs are banned, it says.

“This does not apply if particular geographical conditions make these measures unnecessary,” the Council said.

The Council said that the new rules will come into force 20 days after their publication in the Official Journal of the EU.