Hungarian diplomacy could achieve a significant result in view of the fact that the Council of EU Environment Ministers is expected to adopt new regulations allowing member states to decide independently on the authorisation or banning of genetically modified plants at its meeting today. Accordingly, it would become easier for member states to ban the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops, because following the decision each country will be able to decide individually whether to authorise or prohibit the use of such agricultural seeds for cultivation. In future, such bans, which are a fundamental requirement to ensure the continued preservation of Hungary’s GMO-free status, may not only be issued for environmental and health reasons, but also on the basis of other criteria, such as for economic or social reasons.

Only previously authorised food and feed may be distributed within the EU. The authorisation of GMOs currently falls within the national sphere of authority to only a minor extent; the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the member states all take part in the decision-making process. The European Commission issues a recommendation on authorisation based on the opinion of the EFSA, on which the member states then vote. In view of the fact that Hungary would like to maintain its GMO-free status, the expected decision of the Environment Council is highly advantageous, because within the current system maintaining the moratorium requires time-consuming and expensive testing, in addition to which the owners of seed varieties do not provide samples for testing. Additionally, the Commission has until now regularly issued recommendations against member state moratoria, against which it is very difficult to acquire a qualified majority, although Hungary has already succeeded in doing so on two occasions.

The background to the expected decision is that in June 2010 the European Commission issued a recommendation aimed at enabling member states to decide freely on allowing or prohibiting the cultivation of genetically modifies crops on part or all of their territory. Intensive work was performed throughout the Hungarian presidency of the EU and in 2011 the amendments to the proposal almost achieved a qualified majority at a vote by member states. One year later, the Danish presidency tried to pre-empt the minority of member states who were blocking the proposal by incorporating new solutions into its text, but a stalemate ensued once again within the Council.

This state of affairs changed significantly when during the Greek presidency, with the help of the blocking minority, the Commission authorised the public cultivation of yet another “gene-fiddled” maize variety, code-named 1507. This has not been implemented as yet, but the negotiations on the 2010 GMO package gained new impetus as a result. The member states’ ambassadors to Brussels adopted the new presidential proposal two weeks ago, in preparation for the decision by the council of ministers. According to preliminary expectations, at their session today the EU’s environment ministers will also give their go-ahead for the amendment of current regulations.

(Magyar Nemzet, 2014.06.12.)