EU rejects biotech opt-out proposal

Groups say EU's actions still go against goals of normalizing trade.

The European Parliament’s overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would allow individual EU member states to opt-out of importing and using foods containing biotechnology for non-scientific reasons. The body voted 619-58 to approve a committee report recommending opposition to the controversial “opt-out” proposal.

Agricultural groups welcomed the decision as Europe has long been called on to make science-based decisions on the issue of biotechnology. Europe is a top-five market for American soybeans.

“One of the unifying principles of the EU is to provide a single market, both within Europe and as a partner in in global commerce. Enabling each of its 28 member states to go rogue on GMO acceptance, based on societal or political concerns, is hardly a unifying strategy for success,” said Wade Cowan, president of the American Soybean Assn.

Moving forward, the Commission has been directed by the EU Parliament to come up with a new proposal. “However, in our view, it would be more appropriate for the EU to use its own existing procedures to approve new biotech products rather than trying to come up with another approach. The Commission just needs to do its job by following its own regulations and procedures,” Cowan said.

Matthew O’Mara, managing director, food and agriculture, Biotechnology Industry Organization, said BIO continues to see the proposal as inconsistent with the European Union’s WTO obligations and a threat to U.S. – EU trade and it undermines the objective of normalizing trade relations with Europe on biotechnology.

Although encouraged by the parliament’s rejection, O’Mara said BIO “will not be satisfied until the Commission commits to processing biotech approvals in a timely and predictable manner consistent with current laws and regulations.”

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