BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament on Wednesday rejected a draft law that would have allowed member states to ban the use of EU-approved genetically modified food and feed on their territory, a step welcomed by the GM industry.
GM crops are extremely divisive in Europe and a majority of the 28 European Union nations has requested opt-outs from authorizations to grow GM crops under a separate law agreed in March.
Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a statement Europe found itself in a "very paradoxical situation", as EU citizens were skeptical about GMO while livestock producers were dependent on GM feed imports for their animals.
"I regret that today Mews have rejected the proposal. I feel this is a lost opportunity to give a concrete answer to a legitimate concern of European citizens," he said.
Monsanto's GM maize MON 810 is for now the only crop commercially cultivated in the EU.
Andriukaitis told the parliament earlier that in the case of a rejection, the Commission would continue to apply existing rules on approvals for GM food and feed imports.
The rules have led to years of stalemate as member states have been unable to reach decisions. Critics say the system lacks legal certainty and any opt-outs under the system are vulnerable to court challenges.
Europa, which represents GM companies, said the rejection of the Commission's "patchwork proposal" was positive.
"If approved, such a proposal would undermine the internal market and farmers' livelihoods and set off alarm bells for any innovative industry looking to invest in Europe," Letitia Conclaves, chairman of Europa, said in a statement.
Green politicians say the Commission's proposal would have facilitated GM authorizations as regulators could argue that member states with objections were free to opt out. They say, however, it was legally flawed, a charge they also level at the existing system.
"We cannot persist with the current situation by which authorizations proceed in spite of flawed risk assessments and the consistent opposition of a majority of EU governments and, importantly, a clear majority of EU citizens," Green food safety spokesperson Bart Sates said in a statement.
Sates said the Green party would meanwhile systematically object to any GM food or feed authorizations.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis, editing by David Evans)