The European Commission has announced 19 EU member states will be able to ban the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. Environmental groups praised the news.
The 19 EU member states will be able to ban GM cultivation on their territory after biotech and agriculture companies dropped objections on Thursday.
GM crops have faced resistance in Europe amid concern over their impact on health and the environment.
Previously, EU member states could only ban GM cultivation based on scientific evidence of health or environmental risks, but under new rules they will also be able to cite other reasons, including political considerations.
The decision comes after the Brussels - split between pro and anti-GM members - had, after years of negotiations, allowed individual member states to decide whether they would grow GM crops.
"The new approach allows member states to listen to the concerns of many European citizens and have the final say on whether or not GMOs can be cultivated on their territory," European Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio said.
The 19 countries include Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
Germany will also ban GM crops, but wants to allow for GM research. Denmark and Luxembourg want to ban four GM crops, while Belgium and Britain have asked for the ban to apply in only certain parts of their countries.
“Over the past 20 years, GM technology has only been taken up by a handful of countries for a handful of crops, so no wonder two thirds of Europe have decided to ban it," Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said in a statement. "Where GM crops are grown, they lead to increased pesticide use and the entrenchment of industrial farming systems that in turn exacerbate hunger, malnutrition and climate change.”
Monsanto's maize strain MON 810 is currently the only GM crop approved for cultivation in the EU, where it is primarily crown in Spain and Portugal. Eight other approvals are pending.
Monsanto's Roundup Ready line of GM crops has been linked to the massive population decline of monarch butterflies in North America.
Nearly 85 percent of GM crops in the world are grown in four countries: the US, Brazil, Argentina and Canada.
The EU still imports GM products, but a proposal to make it easier to ban or restrict GM imports is still under consideration.