The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into agriculture has been a controversial issue from the beginning. Many citizens reject the cultivation of genetically modified crops e.g. because of concerns about possible ecological or health risks or for ethical reasons. The absence of GMOs or products derived from GMOs is generally regarded as a prerequisite for certified-quality produce and products of designated origin, and of course is a necessity for organic farming.
For these reasons, in the early 2000s, several European regions decided to join forces in order to protect their conventional and organic production from GMO contamination and to safeguard agricultural biodiversity in their regions. In 2005, twenty regions signed the Charter of Florence
, which until the present day sets the guiding principles for the European Network of GMO-free regions.
The Network can be joined by all regions which share its objectives and has now (2015) grown to over 60 regions from nine EU member states. Based on the principles and objectives of subsidiarity, the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle and freedom of choice, the Network observes ongoing developments and addresses current challenges to GMO-free agriculture.
Structure and Activities
The Network is chaired by the President and two Vice-Presidents. The Presidency is currently (2015) held by the German region North Rhine-Westphalia, the term usually lasts two years. Vice-Presidency is held by the Italian region Marche and by Upper Austria.
Activities are coordinated by a Steering Committee, in which all states with Network member regions are represented. Each Memberstate is represented in the Steering Committee by 1 - 2 regions . Work is organized by a technical secretariat.
The core of the Networks activities are the Annual Conferences. They provide a forum for discussion of all current issues and result in a declaration which highlights the Networks position and demands. Between Conferences, the Network publishes position papers on current topics.