European Parliament passes legislation allowing GM member state opt out

13th January 2015

We need inexpensive, safe and nutritious foods to feed the world’s growing population, and should consider all options that could help overcome challenges to maintaining our food supply.

Genetic modification is just one of these options, but it has the potential to produce nutritionally enhanced crops, as well as crops with reduced needs for water, fertiliser of pesticides.

In the EU, turning that potential into crops that benefit consumers and the environment has been hampered by the ‘log-jam’ of the old GM legislation. The new legislation maintains the need for a stringent safety assessment from EFSA, but provides additional flexibility for individual nations to decide for themselves whether to grow GM crops commercially.

It is now up to individual governments to use that choice, but we hope that decisions will be informed by the excellent, independent scientific advice available to them, to use the full range of options, including GM, to provide a more sustainable agricultural system in the future.

What crops might we grow

Currently, the only crop approved for growing in the EU is a variety of maize genetically modified to resist insect attack. Most other varieties have also been genetically modified to provide protection against pests.

But Genetic modification can also be used to increase amounts of particular nutrients (like vitamins) in food crops. Research into this technique, sometimes called nutritional enhancement, is now at an advanced stage.

Genetic modification may provide:

  • Sturdy plants able to withstand weather extremes
  • Drought-tolerant and salt-tolerant crops
  • Better-quality food crops
  • Higher nutritional yields
  • Inexpensive and nutritious food, such as carrots with more antioxidants
  • Foods with a longer shelf life, like tomatoes that taste better and last longer
  • Food with medicinal (nutraceutical) benefits, such as edible vaccines – for example, bananas with bacterial or rotavirus antigens
  • Disease- and insect-resistant crops that require less pesticide and herbicide – for example, GM canola.