Science in Society Archive

Nijmegen Declared GM-Free through Citizen Action

A model local initiative for banning GMOs Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

The Community Council of Nijmegen declared the city GM-free on 29 June 2011 [1]. This is only the third GM-free region after Culemborg and the province of Friesland in the Netherlands, a country in close competition with the UK for the most pro-GM national government in Europe.

In both Culemborg and Friesland, the initiative came from the Netherlands green party, GroenLinks. In Nijmegen, however, it came from a group of citizens that started in 2009 to raise awareness on GM food and agriculture. The group, “Citizens for GE-free food” came up with a Citizens' Initiative for a GM-free Nijmegen. Nijmegen is a city of 164 000 inhabitants and requires 100 signatures to put an issue on the agenda of the Community Council. The group collected 4 000 signatures and handed in their Initiative to the Community Councilin April 2010.The Initiative requested the Community Council to tackle the issue in four steps as follows.

1. Make a statement in the press declaring the city GM-free, referring to the citizens' objections listed in the initiative, and send the statement to the national government and the national parliament.

2. Get legal advice on the options available to local authorities within the framework of the EU Directive 2001/18, to protect regular and organic agriculture from undesired GMOs.

3. Communicate the citizens' concerns on GMO safety to companies wishing to start field trials within the community.

4. Draw up a formal Note on Sustainability setting out a community policy based on more than just the national guidelines on sustainability and including the notion “GM-free”.

After intensive lobbying by the group and two debates in the Council, a 23 to 16 majority of the Council voted in favour of accepting the Citizens' Initiative. The green party, the socialist party, the Social Democrats and the United Senior Party voted in favour; the liberals, the Christian democrats, the Liberal Democrats (D66) and two local parties voted against. The decision went against an earlier advice by the city’s mayor and aldermen to reject the Initiative.

ISIS submitted a letter in support of the Initiative stating succinctly why rejecting GMOs for organic agro-ecological farming is urgently needed to save the climate and feed the world, and this should apply in general to all similar initiatives around the world [2] (Letter in Support of Citizens’ Initiative for GM-Free Nijmegen, SiS 51).

The group will now continue to advise the Nijmegen Council in carrying out the four points of the Initiative.

Article first published 11/07/11


  1. “Dutch city of Nijmegen GE-free”, Diederick Sprangers, Genethics Foundation, 30 June 2011,
  2. Ho MW. Letter in support of citizen’s initiative for GM-free Nijmegen. Science in Society 51 (to appear).

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Trina Paulus Comment left 12th July 2011 01:01:18
This news is especially welcome, as The Grail international woman's movement to which I belong began at the University of Nijmegen in 1921. It will be a pleasure to share this link around the world to encourage like measures in our own towns and cities.