Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Food Law News - EU - 2015

Council Minutes, 13 July 2015

GMOs - Restriction of use of genetically modified food and feed: Council discussions

The following is an extract from the minutes of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council Meeting:

The Commission presented to the ministers:

Ministers then had an exchange of views on the issue on the basis of a questionnaire of the Presidency (See 10569/15).

Most of them questioned the proposed opt-out option and considered it would not offer them a practicable and legally sound solution. For example, they pointed out that the word "use" of a GM as indicated in the proposal is not sufficiently defined and could lead to different interpretations.

Many delegations highlighted that the new process could weaken the single market and pointed out that it could contravene the international commitments of the EU. A number of ministers regretted that no impact assessment has been prepared to evaluate the consequences of the proposal.

The Presidency mandated the Council preparatory bodies to examine the technical aspects of the proposal on the basis of further analyses provided by the Commission.


The communication outlines the need to adapt the GMO legal framework to make better allowance for national governments to express their views on the use of GMOs. It notes also that in March 2015, the Council and the Parliament agreed on an amendment of the GMO legal framework to allow member states to restrict or prohibit on their territory the cultivation of authorised GMOs (See directive 2015/412/EU). The communication concludes that there is a need to extend this approach to genetically modified food and feed.

In that context, the proposed regulation aims to achieve a balance between maintaining an EU authorisation system and the freedom for member states to decide on the use of GMOs on their territory. The current single risk management system with the authorisation system would not be amended, as it ensures that the same level of protection applies throughout the EU. However, the change proposed would mean that since a GMO is authorised for use as food or feed in the EU, member states would be able to decide on whether to opt out from allowing that particular GMO to be used in their food chain. Opt-out measures should be based on legitimate reasons other than those assessed at EU level (i.e. risk to human or animal health or the environment) and should comply with EU law, which includes the principles of the internal market, and the EU's international obligations.

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