Biotechnology giant Monsanto is considering reverting back to selling conventional seeds and chemicals in Europe, due to policy uncertainty and opposition from some member states.
It cites lack of prospects for cultivation in some regions of the European Union for its decision.
Although genetically modified (GM) products are sold in the continent, Europe has the strictest regulation on ‘new food’ in the world. In 1998, member states placed a moratorium on GM crops and until 2004, none were cultivated or sold in Europe.
The US and South America, the world’s largest GM producers, contested the ban as unfair, according to the free trade legislation. Food safety laws in both the US and across the EU are supposed to take into account the precautionary principle, which is a form of risk management over the environmental impact of a product.
GM agriculture is strictly controlled by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and all food containing more than 0.9% of approved genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be labelled.
As of 2012, 48 GMOs were allowed within the EU, most of which were used as animal feed or food additives.
The debate is still ongoing, especially concerning the coexistence of conventional crops and GM ones. The European member states have different viewpoints on the matter, with some supporting the development in Europe and others opposing it.
UK environment minister Owen Paterson said in June that the UK should take the lead in an agricultural revolution in Europe on GM crops. Spain is also on its way to becoming the EU’s largest producer of these crops.
On the other side, countries such as France, Germany and Italy have traditionally opposed GM contamination. Italy’s recently appointed food and agriculture minister Nunzia De Girolamo said in July that she was determined to keep GMOs out of the country.
“Italian agriculture doesn’t need GMO”, she said.
“Our heritage is beloved all over the world for its peculiarity and choosing the genetically modified organisms would be a failure.”