GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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The Netherlands

Coexistence With Consensus

Umbrella organisations in the Netherlands representing agriculture, plant breeders, and consumers have agreed to guidelines for growing genetically modified crops. They are putting together a liability fund that will compensate farmers if they incur losses due to unwanted mixing with GM crops. The plan received support even from the organic farmers’ association.

Bild vergrößern
Isolation distances for maize. According to the vanDijk committee, a distance of 250 metres is enough to keep cross-pollination between GM and conventional maize at a minimum.

The LTO, a Dutch agricultural organisation, as well as Biologica, the umbrella organisation for organic agriculture, came together to establish an agreement on coexistence. The group was joined by the Platnum NL association of plant breeders and (ABC) Platform Earth Farmer Consumer, making up what became known as the "VanDijk Committee", named after the chairperson of the group. The committee presented a report called "Coexistence in Primary Production" to the Dutch minister of agriculture.

The guidelines set forth in the report were designed to keep adventitious mixing of genetically modified and conventional agricultural products at an absolute minimum, thereby guaranteeing coexistence and insuring consumers’ freedom of choice.

National register

According to the guidelines in the vanDijk committee’s report, farmers wishing to grow GM crops must report to a centralised, national register. They must declare where they will be planting GM crops no later than February 1st so that nearby farmers can be made aware in advance.

Isolation distances

The van Dijk committee settled on appropriate distances for separating GM and conventional maize, sugar beets, and potatoes. These figures only apply to GM crops that were approved by the EU and hence assessed as safe for humans, animals, and the environment.

For organic farmers or farmers that wish to sell their goods according to strict GMO-free criteria: 

  • Sugar beets – 3 metres
  • Potatoes - 10 metres
  • Maize - 250 metres 
For conventional farmers: 
  • Sugar beets – 1.5 metres
  • Potatoes - 3 metres
  • Maize - 25 metres

Agricultural codes of practice

The vanDijk committee developed an accredited list of measures defining "agricultural codes of practice". These measures establish standardised practices for preventing unwanted mixing addressing specific crops, covering everything from planting to processing. The codes of practices will be implemented in certification programmes and will thereby become legally binding. Enforcement and effectiveness is also addressed, requiring routine sampling and analyses. With sugar beets, care must be taken to check for volunteers, that is, second-generation plants growing unintentionally from a self-sowing crop. Potatoes have to be harvested in a way that makes sure plant material is not left behind after harvesting that could proliferate the following year.

Liability for losses

Farmers who grow GM crops are liable for economic losses incurred by their non-GMO neighbours in the case of the spread of GM material. They are only liable, however, when established rules for coexistence were not upheld. A liability fund compensates for losses when no producer is liable. Agri-biotech companies, plant breeders, farmers, consumers of GM products, and at least at first, the state, will contribute to this fund.

Agreeing to these rules was most difficult for Biologica, the organic farmers’ group. The group asserts that it still fundamentally opposes plant genetic engineering. The fact that GM crops are already approved, however, required cooperation so that concrete codes of practice could be established.


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information


GMO Soybeans & Sustainability

Less soil erosion and fuel consumption: herbicide tolerant soybeans are promoting sustainable cultivation methods.


Glyphosate in European agriculture

Interview with a farmer

Glyphosate containing herbicides are not only used in fields with GM crops. They also allow conventional farmers to sow directly into stubble fields without ploughing. Glyphosate has replaced mechanical weed control in many crops and has had an important impact on agricultural practices and crop yields in Europe over the past few decades.

European Glyphosate Task Force

December 21, 2006 [nach oben springen]

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