Agreement on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for import as food and feed hasn’t been reached in the European Union since 2003.

Using the same template as recent proposals on allowing GMOs to be grown in the EU, the European Commission has proposed changes to the way GMOs are approved for import.

Currently the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assesses products for import. Member States must then approve the GMO by qualified majority.

What does this mean for the GMO debate? What does it mean for the internal market?

Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition, says that this proposal when it’s adopted will enable Member States to address at national level considerations that are not covered by the decision making process that we use right now.

If the proposal is accepted Member States will be able to prohibit the use of individual GMOs and Head of Cabinet for Comissioner Andriukaitis, Arunas Vincunas says that people who don’t want GMOs can have a say and can choose not to use it.

However, the proposal has been criticised by those against GMOs such as Eric Gall, Policy Manager of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) EU.

We believe that this Commission proposal is a bad idea because it would be impossible to implement for Member States because of internal markets, it would be impossible to control.

“Member States anyway will face huge pressure from the US and other GMO exporting countries not to use this possibility to ban imports of GMOS,” Gall says.

The proposal has also been criticised by those in favour of GMO use.

Beat Spath, Director for Agricultural Biotechnology Europabio (the association for bioindustries), says that they think the GMO proposal is “terrible”.

“It really runs against the principles of the internal market to have a patchwork of national bans on safe products. So it’s just another licence to ban very bad precedent also for science based regualtion,” he says.

The proposal has raised eyebrows among international trade partners, Vieuws (the EU policy broadcaster) says.

David Plunkett Canadian Ambassador to the EU says that Canada’s view is that the policy should be science based and evidence based.

“What is going to be the impact on a single market because when our exporters send to the EU they send to the EU and what is this going to mean from Member State to Member State?” he says.

Video source: Vieuws, the EU policy broadcaster.