Why has the EU banned GMOs

Genetic engineering information service


With a new exit mechanism, the EU Commission wanted to get stuck genetic engineering processes going again. Some manufacturers have been waiting for approval of their genetically modified plants for years - the US company Dupont-Pioneer successfully sued. The Opt-out ("not participate", "get out"), which was decided after years of dispute at the beginning of 2015, is intended to allow individual member states to a) ban the cultivation of genetic engineering varieties, even if these are permitted in the EU or to agree with the manufacturers to voluntarily refrain from cultivation.

to a) The Member States must give reasons for this, but they must not have anything to do with health or environmental risks (there is the safeguard clause mentioned for this). For example, are possible environmental goals (e.g. protection of biodiversity from insecticides that the genetic engineering plants produce themselves), agricultural policy goals (e.g. reducing the general use of pesticides) or socio-economic goals (e.g. promotion of smallholder structures or ecological agriculture). But governments can also rely on the "Preventing the presence of GMOs in other products" or the "public order" appointed (the latter, however, only in combination with other arguments).

In order to implement the opt-out in German law, the Genetic Engineering Act must be amended. After a corresponding bill failed in the Bundestag in May 2017, the next federal government now has to find a solution after the election in September.


to b) the governments request that the manufacturers waive the cultivation permit in their country. The correspondence is taken over by the EU Commission. Many member states have opted for this path because, in their view, if an agreement is reached, a costly legal dispute with an uncertain outcome can be avoided. Germany, too, has been assured that six GM maize varieties will not be grown in the country.


Legal basis: Directive (EU) 2015/412 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2015 amending Directive 2001/18 / EC on the possibility granted to the member states to allow the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on their territory restrict or prohibit (full text in German)




Anyone who owns arable land and leases it to farmers can insist that genetically modified seeds are not sown. As early as 2005, lawyers came to the conclusion in an expert report: "The lessee is obliged to properly manage the leased property (Section 586 (1) BGB). In particular, he may not make any changes to the previous use of the leased property that could still be disadvantageous for the lessor beyond the end of the lease period The joint liability of the lessor is the cultivation of GMOs for the latter even during the ongoing lease period. This risk is currently not insurable either (DBV p. 103). The cultivation of genetically modified plants should then not be permitted without the lessor's permission (§ 590 Abs. 1 BGB). "Legal opinion as pdf

Here you will find a sample letter as a supplement to an existing lease to inform the tenant that genetic engineering is undesirable (source: Network of GMO-Free Agriculture).



Communities often have their own farmland that they lease to farmers. Numerous municipalities have already banned the cultivation of genetically modified plants through the agreements. To do this, they add the following passage to the lease agreement: "No genetically modified seeds or genetically modified plants may be used on urban / communal land."



The churches in Germany also own a lot of arable land. Many Protestant churches have forbidden farmers to cultivate genetic engineering plants through the lease agreements. However, some Catholic dioceses, for example Münster or the archbishoprics of Cologne and Munich, provide corresponding lease agreements.

Pope Francis expressed himself differently in his 2015 encyclical. He rejected the "inappropriate or excessive use" of genetic engineering and referred to "significant difficulties that must not be put into perspective".

You can find out more about the positions of the churches in Germany and internationally here.


Other states

More on genetic engineering moratoria and cultivation bans (e.g. Switzerland, Russia, Tasmania) in our cultivation statistics dossier.