Hungary: National GM crop situation

Hungary: National bans of GM crops

Hungary invoked the safeguard clause to ban 2 products, but its “evidence“ was rejected by EFSA on 3 occasions. Hungary never fulfilled the legal conditions to impose these bans, but the bans remain in place unchallenged.

Genetically Modified potato EH92-527-1

Use: Cultivation
Legal ground for ban quoted: Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC

  • Ban: In December 2010, Hungary notified to the EC its scientific argumentation justifying the implementation of a national safeguard measure prohibiting the placing on the market of GM potato EH92-527-1 for cultivation purposes, according to Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC.
  • EFSA: On 23 May 2012, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was requested by the European Commission to assess the scientific information submitted by the Hungarian Authorities. On 19 December 2012, the GMO Panel concluded that no new information were provided to lead to reconsideration of its opinion on GM potato EH92-527-1 which came to the conclusion that GM potato EH92-527-1 is as safe as conventional potato. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/it/efsajournal/doc/3021.pdf

Reactions European Commission, European Court of Justice, national courts

  • Failure to fulfill legal requirements: The ban has been in place since 2010 although Hungary has not provided detailed grounds for considering that genetically modified potato EH92-527-1 constitutes a risk to human health or environment.
  • No action of the EC: The European Commission did not take any action against the ban after the scientific opinion of EFSA in order to guarantee that the European law is implemented correctly.

Genetically modified maize line MON810

Use: Cultivation
Legal ground for ban quoted: Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC

  • Ban: On 20 January 2005, Hungary invoked the safeguard clause (Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC) to provisionally prohibit the cultivation of the authorised genetically modified maize line MON 810 on its territory.
  • EFSA: The European Commission requested in April 2005, a scientific opinion of EFSA. On 25 July 2005 the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms of EFSA concluded that no new scientific evidence was presented that would invalidate the previous risk assessment of genetically modified maize line MON 810 which came to the conclusion that MON 810 is as safe as conventional maize. See also http://www.efsa.europa.eu/it/efsajournal/doc/228.pdf
  • Additional EFSA rejection: Hungary presented additional studies to EFSA in April 2008. On 2 July 2008 EFSA concluded that no specific scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, were provided that would justify a prohibition of use and sale of maize MON810 in Hungary. See also http://www.efsa.europa.eu/it/efsajournal/doc/756.pdf

Reactions European Commission, European Court of Justice, national courts

  • Failure to fulfill legal requirements: The ban has been in place since 2005  although Hungary has never provided detailed grounds for considering that genetically modified Maize MON 810 constitutes a risk to human health or environment.
  • Two Environment Council rejections of EC proposals: On 22 February 2007 a Commission proposal asking Hungary to repeal its measures concerning MON810 has been rejected by the Environment Council  by qualified majority. In March 2009 the Environment Council rejected a new proposal by the European Commission to lift up the ban on MON 810. See also http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0012:FIN:EN:PDF
  • No further action of the EC: The European Commission did not challenge the Council’s decisions rejecting the EC draft measures to lift up the ban

General situation for GM crops in Hungary

Pilot survey conducted by National Federation of Agricultural Cooperators and Producers

General

Some 5 million hectares (ha) of agricultural land in Hungary are used for growing crops, primarily for cereal production. Agricultural generally is still a major economic sector in Hungary.

Key crops

Maize (1.2 million ha), wheat (952 000 ha), sunflower (574 000 ha), barley (267 000 ha), oilseed rape (237 000 ha). A major emerging constraint for plant production in Hungary is drought, which is occurring with increasing frequency. Maize and wheat are most vulnerable to droughts. In addition, insect pests in maize can cause losses of up to 40 per cent, while fungal infestations in wheat are equally damaging.

R&D efforts

Hungary established the Agricultural Biotechnology Centre (ABC) as early as 1989, which is still spearheading plant biotechnology research in the country. ABC’s innovations include virus-resistant GM potato, and drought-tolerant potato, which reached field trial stages. However, due to increasingly complex conditions for field trials, only a limited number have been carried out in recent years. State support to biotechnology applications in public plant breeding programs is no longer existent. As a result, most of the above mentioned crop constraints are dealt with by conventional breeding approaches and marker-assisted selection.

Regulatory situation

Hungary’s official position on GM crops is prohibitive, which is in fact codified in the country’s new constitution of 2012. This policy is implemented by the Gene-Technology Competent Authority, based on the advice of the Gene Technology Committee.

Experiences of farmers

So far, no GM crops have been grown commercially.