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EU GM Crop Regulation: A Road to Resolution or a Regulatory Roundabout?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Shane H. Morris
The Genetics and Biotechnology Lab, Botany and Plant Science, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland
Charles Spillane
National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland


Since first embarking on the road of risk management options for the regulation of recombinant DNA (rDNA) activities and use in 1978, the European Union (EU) has largely failed to create a regulatory and policy environment regarding genetically modified (GM) crops and their cultivation that is (a) efficient, (b) predicable, (c) accountable, (d) durable or (e) interjurisdictionally aligned.

Symposium on the EU’s GMO Reform
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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* The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the authors. The authors have written this article in their personal capacity. The views expressed do not represent the views of their colleagues, their current or past employers, the National University of Ireland Galway, the Government of Canada or any other organization or body. The authors have no personal financial interests in any commercial organization that might financially benefit from the publication of this article.

1 Commission Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory COM (2010) 375.

2 Galloux, Jean-Christophe, Prat, Helene Gaumont and Stevers, Ester, “Europe”, in Durant, John, Bauer, Martin W. and Gaskell, George (eds), Biotechnology in the Public Sphere: A European Sourcebook (London: Science Museum 1998), pp. 177 et sqq., at p. 180.Google Scholar

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4 European Commission Proposal for a Council Directive establishing Safety Measures against the Conjectural Risks associated with recombinant DNA Work – C301/5-7 (1978).

5 Cantley, Mark, “The Regulation of Modern Biotechnology: A Historical and European Perspective. A Case Study in How Societies Cope with New Knowledge in the Last Quarter of the Twentieth Century”, in Brauer, Dieter (ed.), 12 Biotechnology: Legal Economic and Ethical Dimensions (Weinheim: Wiley-VCH Verlag 1995), pp. 501 et sqq., at p. 513.Google Scholar

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7 Health and Safety (Genetic Manipulation) Regulations (1978). SI 1978, No. 752.

8 Council Recommendation Concerning the Registration of Work involving recombinant Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), COM 82/472/ EEC of 30 June 1982 Official Journal, L 213, p. 15.

9 Cantley, “The Regulation of Modern Biotechnology”, supra note 5, at p. 2.

10 EU Commission Communication to the Council entitled Biotechnology in the Community, COM (83) 672 – 3 October 1983.

11 OECD, Recombinant DNA Safety Considerations (Paris 1986).

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15 EU Commission Proposal for a Council Directive on the contained Use of genetically modified Microorganisms and Proposal for a Council Directive on the deliberate Release to the Environment of genetically modified Organisms, COM (88)160.

16 Minutes from the 40th meeting of the Council of the EMBO, 1st October 1988: “… any legislation should focus not on the technique but on the safety or otherwise of the products generated with it. … Over the last 15 years, experience has shown that recombinant DNA methods, far from being inherently dangerous, are an important tool both for understanding properties of life and for developing applications valuable to humankind and the environment. EMBO strongly believes that there is no scientific justification for additional specific legislation regulating recombinant research per se. Any rules or legislation should only apply to the safety of products according to their properties, rather than according to the methods used to generate them”.

17 Sehnal and Drobník, “White Book genetically modified Crops” supra note 12, at p. 4.

18 Cantley, “The Regulation of modern Biotechnology”, supra note 5, at p. 2.

19 Ibid.

20 Council Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms OJ 1990 L 117/15 and Council Directive 90/219/EEC on the contained use of genetically modified organisms.

21 Grace Skogstad, “Supranational Regulation and Contested Accountability: The Case of GMO Risk Regulation in the European Union”, EUI Working Paper SPS No. 2008/07(2008).

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27 Ibid.

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29 Ibid.

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46 Charles Jaigu, “Fillon: la majorité sera jugée «au bout de cinq ans»”, Le Figaro, 14 January 2008: “Concernant les OGM, Fillon a défendu sa décision de déclencher la procédure de suspension du maïs génétiquement modifié MON810 en estimant qu’il s’agissait d’un «compromis scellé dans le ‘Grenelle de l’environnement’»”.

47 Council of the European Union, “Council Conclusions on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)”, 2912th Environment Council meeting, Brussels, 4 December 2008.

48 As exemplified by Marion Guillou, President of France's National Institute for Agronomical Research (INRA) who stated INRA's work on new varieties now involves only conventional crops, for which research is less efficient, longer and more expensive. Sybille de La Hamaide, “French Researcher halts Development of GMO Crops”, Reuters, October 31, 2010, available on the Internet at <>.

49 EU Commission Communication on the Precautionary Principle. COM (2000) 1, at p. 5

50 “[M]easures taken under the precautionary principle should be designed to achieve an equivalent level of protection without invoking the geographical origin or the nature of the production process to apply different treatments in an arbitrary manner”, ibid

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