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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

EU nations say NO to GM crops but not quite loudly enough European Commission must protect our right and grow and eat GM Free after key EU vote rejects crops but fails to meet qualified majority voting standard

Immediate release (27 Jan 2017)

Press contact: Liz O'Neill, liz[at], 07811 211 404

A key vote today saw European nations oppose the European Commission’s proposal to authorise the first new GM crops for cultivation since 1998, but failed to achieve the necessary majority for the proposal to be formally shelved. [1]

EU member states were voting on a proposal to authorise two new strains of GM maize, and the reauthorisation of the one GM crop currently grown in the EU (also maize).

Thirteen member states voted to reject the new crops, while eight voted in favour. Twelve voted to remove the one existing GM crop from EU fields and ten to keep it. However, despite the convincing rejection of new crops, neither decision met the qualified majority voting bar and it is now up to the European Commission to decide what to do next. [2]

GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill said

With Europe’s nations divided, the Commission must protect our right to grow and eat GM Free by sending these crops packing. GM Bt maize is designed to kill pests but its impact on beneficial insects like butterflies is poorly understood. [3] National bans are supposed to give countries control over their farms but no measures have been put in place to protect those who have used the “opt-out” mechanism (including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) from contamination. Maize pollen travels kilometres [4] and is no more likely to respect a national border than to turn left at a roundabout so keeping GM out of your own back yard is never going to be enough.

The UK’s vote in favour of all three GM maize crops, despite each being banned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, should ring alarm bells for anyone who wants to protect biodiversity and consumer choice in post-Brexit Britain.”


For more information, please contact: Liz O’Neill, 07811 211 404, liz[at]


[1]  The decision concerns GM maize types from Syngenta and Dow-Pioneer (technical names BT11 and 1507) and the renewal of the only GM maize currently allowed to be grown in the EU (Mon810 from Monsanto). All three crops have been modified to produce insecticide in their own cells. The two new crops can also tolerate being sprayed with glufosinate, a highly toxic herbicide produced by Bayer.

Voting breakdown:

Renewal of Mon810

12 Member states voted against the proposal: Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, France, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovakia

10 Member states voted in In favour: Czech Republic, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom

6 Member States abstained: Belgium, Germany, Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia

Authorisation of 1507 and Bt 11

13 Member States voted against: Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, France, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden

8 Member States voted in favour: Estonia, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Finland,  United Kingdom

7 Member States abstained: Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia

A GM potato strain was authorised in 2010, but annulled by the EU Court of Justice in 2013 due to procedural mistakes.


[2]  A qualified majority requires 55% of EU Member States representing 65% of the population. Under EU rules the Commission can now either reject the GM authorisations, change their details and ask governments again, or send them to an appeal committee.


[4] Hofmann, F., Otto M., Wosniok W. (2014) Maize pollen deposition in relation to the distance from the nearest pollen source under common cultivation – Results of 10 years of monitoring (2001-2010). Environmental Sciences Europe, 26:24.


Hofmann, F., Kruse-Plass, M., Kuhn, U., Otto, M., Schlechtriemen, U., Schröder, B., Vögel, R., Wosniok, W. (2016). Accumulation and variability of maize pollen deposition on leaves of European Lepidoptera host plants and relation to release rates and deposition determined by standardised technical sampling. Environmental Sciences Europe, 28(1), 1-19.