Nineteen EU member states have requested to opt out of producing genetically modified crops, effectively banning their cultivation. Germany requested a partial opt-out that would allow research into the biotechnology.
More than half of all EU member states met an October 3 deadline requesting the ability to opt-out of the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO), the European Commission reported on Sunday.
European Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio said on Sunday that 17 of the member states requested to fully opt-out of GMO cultivation, while Belgium and Britain asked that the opt-out mechanism be reserved for only part of their country's respective territories.
Meanwhile, Germany requested a partial opt-out that would still allow GMO research.
The full opt-out requests were made by Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovenia.
The move allows the countries to ban GMO even if the EU provides approval for their cultivation, according to a law signed earlier this year.
The EU has solely approved the cultivation of one GMO, namely Monsanto's GM maize MON 810. However, eight applications submitted to the EU for review are currently pending.
The cultivation of GMO in Europe has been widely divisive subject, with environmentalists saying that it would damage biodiversity.
Agricultural biotechnology companies, such as Monsanto, have rebuked such criticism as scientifically baseless.
Brivio noted that the number of requests showed that the new law providing opt-outs at a member-state level offers "a necessary legal framework to a complex issue."
Companies are provided one month to comment on the requests.
ls/sms (Reuters, dpa)