The European Union (EU) and its member states have had a difficult time dealing with the politics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Despite the fact that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined numerous GMO products to be safe, only one currently is allowed to be planted. MON 810 corn (maize) resists insects, such as the European corn borer. Although this type of corn is widely grown around the world, it is planted on only 1.5 percent of the land area devoted to corn production in the EU. The main reason is a decision by the EU to allow individual member states to forbid the planting of crops that have been enhanced through genetic engineering. Member states now banning the planting of GMOs include Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, and Poland.
Regardless of the EU’s reluctance to allow GMO crops to be grown, importation of GMO soybeans and soybean meal has been a commercial necessity. In 2014 the EU consumed the protein equivalent of 36 million metric tons of soybeans for livestock feeding. Roughly 97 percent of those soybeans were imported. The three largest soybean producing and exporting countries – the United States, Brazil, and Argentina – each devote more than 90 percent of their plantings to GM varieties. It simply isn’t possible to buy enough non-GMO soybeans in today’s world to meet the protein needs of the EU livestock sector.
Apparently it also isn’t possible for the European Commission to achieve agreement among member countries to authorize new GMOs for importation as human food or livestock feed. Since the regulations for considering GMO applications went into effect in 2003, a qualified majority of member states has never agreed to approve a new food or feed product. When the outcome among member states is “no opinion,” the decision on whether to allow a product containing GMOs to be imported reverts to the Commission. Perhaps with some reluctance, the Commission has approved the importation of around 50 genetically modified products.