Farmers and environmentalists have hit out at European Commission proposals to give member states a greater say over the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as food and feed.

The European Commission yesterday put forward a package of proposals which would give national governments the power to ban or authorise EU-approved GMOs in their territories.

European Commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said a review into the decision-making process for the authorisation of GMOs had confirmed the need for changes to the current system.

“The Commission has listened to the concerns of many European citizens, reflected in the positions expressed by their national governments,” he said.

Speaking today, the NFU said it was “extremely concerned” about the proposals and called for decision-making on GMOs to stay at an EU level.

Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, warned national bans would “disrupt trade and threaten the single market”, pushing up costs and damaging competitiveness across the supply chain.

The pig and poultry sectors – for which feed accounts for 55-65% of production costs – would be particularly vulnerable.

“The EU is almost entirely reliant on imports for its protein feed requirements, most of which are GM,” she said.

“National bans would seriously compromise many Member States’ ability to produce pig and poultry meat, leading to greater imports from outside the EU.”

Meanwhile, Greenpeace slammed the European Commission for not going far enough on GMOs, pointing out that the proposals said member states would still have to “justify that their opt-out measures comply with EU law, which includes the principles of the internal market, and EU’s international obligations”.

Pointing to mounting pressure from the US government and biotech industry to speed up approval of GMOs, Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said the Commission was offering EU member states a “fake right to opt-out that won’t stand up in any court” and claimed the EU free market rules would “always trump national opt-outs for GMO imports”.

The proposals also drew criticism from the European Free Alliance of Greens in the European Parliament, who warned the Commission was “continuing down the slippery slope of easing the way for GMOs in Europe”.