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Organic Consumers Association

European Union Allows Localized GE-Free Zones

  • E.U. Signals Big Shift on Genetically Modified Crops
    By James Kanter
    The New York Times, May 9, 2010
    Straight to the Source

Madeira is more than 500 kilometers from the African coast and is officially one of the "outermost regions" of the European Union.

Despite that far-flung status, Madeira catapulted into the center of the Union's agricultural and environmental affairs last year when Portugal asked the European Commission for permission to impose an unprecedented ban on growing biotech crops there.

Last week, the commission quietly let the deadline pass for opposing Portugal's request, allowing Madeira, which is one of Portugal's autonomous regions, to become the first E.U. territory to get formal permission from Brussels to remain entirely free of genetically modified organisms.

Madeira now will probably go ahead and implement the ban, a spokeswoman for the Portuguese government said Friday.

Individual European countries and regions have banned certain genetically modified crops before. Many consumers and farmers in countries like Austria, France and Italy regard the crops as potentially dangerous and likely to contaminate organically produced food.

But the case of Madeira represents a significant landmark, because it is the first time the commission, which runs the day-to-day affairs of the European Union, has permitted a country to impose such a sweeping and definitive rejection of the technology.

The Madeirans' main concerns focused on preserving the archipelago's biodiversity and its forest of subtropical laurel trees. 


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