GMOs – the Battle Continues between EU and US

The European Union has decided that individual countries can make decisions regarding the use of GMOs within their own borders, separate and distinct from decisions made by the parliament on behalf of all 28 member countries. The agreement was drafted to allow governments to block the cultivation of certain GMOs in their countries, even if the EU parliament has already approved them.

Generally speaking, the Europeans have held a much stricter stance on GMOs than those in the United States.  In fact, most of the designers, engineers and manufacturers of GMO crops originate in the United States. European countries have tended to exclude the use of GMO crops in their agricultural systems.  These stances have caused a friction between the two trade partners, and, for example, is a sticking point for the ongoing negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The EU parliament’s decision is one in which American business interests may want to keep an eye on, for a few different reasons. One, new business opportunities may be more limited, in some cases, or expanded in others, based on which countries are going to ban (or willing to consider) the use of GMOs.  Two, within that same context, individual country regulations will again be brought to the forefront – requiring companies to be sure that their manufacturing, labeling and shipping processes are all compliant with various American, EU and individual country laws and regulations.  And lastly, there is always the risk  of litigation exposure when countries have differing rules on products, but share such close geographic proximity. For example, Spain may accept certain products that France does not, but the open border policies of the EU might mean it is difficult to prevent the flow of those goods into France, and could, theoretically, create potential liability issues.

These issues are still evolving – and are likely to continue doing so for years to come.  But they are certainly worth monitoring for developments that affect both business and legal interests of any companies involved in the relevant industries.

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