* New EU parliament to debate issue later this year
* Commission hopes for final deal by year's end
* Monsanto says EU market still not tempting
* Green Party says will oppose the draft law
By Barbara Lewis
LUXEMBOURG, June 12 A compromise deal to give
European Union states the option of banning genetically modified
crops won approval from EU environment ministers on Thursday,
bringing the EU closer to ending years of deadlock over GM
Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops in Europe
have divided opinion, with strong opposition in many countries,
including France and Germany, while Britain favours them.
Thursday's compromise deal drew criticism from both
opponents and supporters of growing GM food in Europe.
Monsanto, maker of the only GM crop grown in the EU,
said if the law were enacted as drafted, the company would
continue to focus its investment in other parts of the world.
The European Green Party, meanwhile, described the deal as "a
Trojan horse" that would open the door to GM crops across
At a meeting in Luxembourg, EU environment ministers from 26
of the 28 member states backed the new proposal, which still
needs approval from the European Parliament. Only Belgium and
France, whose constitutional court has already issued a
ruling to uphold a domestic ban on GM maize, welcomed the
"This new system is going to guarantee a choice for all
states. Nothing will be imposed," French Environment Minister
Segolene Royal told the Luxembourg meeting.
Under the proposal, the European Commission, the EU
executive, would retain the right to ban or approve any
particular GM crop throughout the European Union on the basis of
a scientific assessment.
But in the cases where the Commission approves a crop,
individual states could ask for a ban and would also have the
right to ask the Commission to ask companies to exclude them
from any new requests for approval for a GM crop.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said the
proposal opened the way for a formal ban in Germany and welcomed
the idea the Commission would serve as the middle man.
"The Commission will serve as an intermediary and we're
grateful for that. We think it would not be appropriate for
sovereign states to negotiate with companies," Hendricks said.
Britain, as a supporter of GM crops, also welcomed the
"If the European Parliament passes this law, farmers in all
regions of the UK will have more power in deciding whether to
grow GM crops that have passed a robust, independent safety
assessment," British Secretary of State for the Environment Owen
Paterson said in a statement.
YEARS OF INDECISION
An earlier attempt to agree a compromise on GM cultivation
failed in 2012, when EU ministers were unable to agree. But
Thursday's agreement had been expected after EU diplomats in May
backed the proposal in a closed-door meeting.
European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said he hoped that
getting backing from the European Parliament would be quick and
a final agreement could be achieved by the end of the year.
In the interim, intense lobbying from GM companies and
environment groups is likely to continue.
The companies say science supports GM crops and object to
the new proposal on the grounds countries could opt out of GM
cultivation for social reasons, such as public opposition.
So far, EU authorities have only approved two GM crops for
commercial cultivation, and one was later blocked by a court.
That leaves Monsanto's GM maize MON810 as the only GM crop
grown in Europe, where it has been grown in Spain and Portugal
for a decade.
Brandon Mitchener, a spokesman for Monsanto, said his
company would review the regulatory environment in coming years
both at a European level and at a national level.
"However, if enacted as currently drafted, this proposal is
likely to reinforce the grounds for our already announced
decision of investing in GM technology in regions other than
Europe," he said in a statement.
The European Parliament's Green group said the deal would
open the door to GM crops across Europe and it would oppose it.
"The Greens will use all means at our disposal to prevent
this wrong-headed proposal from entering into force," food
safety spokesman Bart Staes said.
(Additional reporting by Sybille de la Hamaide in Paris and
Nigel Hunt in Miami; Editing by James Macharia)