With its unique biodiversity and forest of subtropical laurel trees, Madeira–an archipelago and one of Portugal’s autonomous regions–has a lot to protect. So when it become the first E.U. territory to get formal permission from the European Commission to remain entirely free of genetically modified organisms, it will ultimately be the first to ban biotechnology.
According to The New York Times, “the Madeira case marks 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.”
Individual European countries and regions have banned certain genetically modified crops before: Many consumers and farmers in countries like Austria, France, and Italy regard the crops as potentially dangerous and likely to contaminate organically produced food.
But the case of Madeira represents a significant landmark, because it is the first time the commission, which runs the day-to-day affairs of the European Union, has permitted a country to impose such a sweeping and definitive rejection of the technology.