* Previous effort to agree compromise law failed
* GM crops currently rare in Europe
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Dec 4 The European Union agreed a
compromise on growing genetically modified crops on Thursday
that gives nations the option to ban them, even if EU
authorities have approved them for cultivation.
Environmental campaigners said the deal was an improvement
on the current regime, but were concerned it would still make it
easier to grow GM crops in Europe, while representatives of the
GM industry also criticised the deal.
Widespread in the Americas and Asia, GM crops are rare in
Europe, where they divide opinion, with opposition in many
countries including France and Germany. Britain is in favour of
An earlier attempt to reach a compromise on GM cultivation
failed in 2012, when EU ministers were unable to agree.
The new law, which needs a formal sign-off from the 28
member states and the European Parliament, gives nations the
right to seek an opt-out if the European Commission grants
approval for a GM crop.
Until now, any national bans for an EU-approved GM crops
have tended to be subject to court challenges.
Representing the Green group in the European Parliament,
food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said the deal was not robust
enough and risked "finally opening the door to
genetically-modified organisms across Europe, in spite of
citizens' clear opposition."
Europabio, which represents the GM industry, issued a
statement saying the deal sent "a negative signal for innovative
industries" and denied farmers freedom of choice.
So far, EU authorities have approved only two GM crops for
commercial cultivation, and one, a starchy potato, 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 cultivated in Spain
and Portugal for a decade.
A larger number of GM crops are approved for import, almost
exclusively used as animal feed.
Representing Italy, which led negotiations as the current
holder of EU presidency, Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti
said the compromise was fair and balanced.
(Additional reporting by Tom Koerkemeier, Julia Fioretti and
Francesco Guarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and David