The European Union has reportedly allowed Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal located 500 kilometers from the African coast, to prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the archipelago. According to The New York Times, the European Commission “quietly” let the deadline pass for opposing the GMO ban, which Portuguese officials claimed was necessary to preserve Madeira’s rare subtropical laurel forests, known as laurisilva. “[T]he case of Madeira represents a significant landmark, because it is the first time the commission… has permitted a country to impose such a sweeping and definitive rejection of the technology,” states the May 9, 2010, article.
In issuing its decision, the European Commission apparently circumvented the European Food Safety Authority and signaled “the unofficial beginning of a new— and potentially highly contentious—policy that would give European nations and regions far greater freedom to decide when to ban such crops.” This policy seeks to grease the wheels of the GMO approval process by permitting countries and regions more latitude to set their own agricultural agendas. As EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs John Dalli was quoted as saying, the priority was to get experts, companies and activists to “understand and accept a process that they will not try to second-guess or try to attack once a decision not to their liking is taken.”