LUXEMBURG, June 27, 2005
(ENS): The environment ministers of five European countries
are standing firm on their rejection of genetically modified crops.
They have turned down a package of proposals by the European Commission
to lift their bans on transgenic varieties of maize and oilseed
rape that are authorized across the European Union.
At a European Environment Council meeting Friday, the ministers
of Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg won a majority
of their counterparts over to their view that several varieties
of genetically modified maize, or corn, and oilseed rape, or canola,
present risks to human health and the environment.
This is the first time that the Environment Council found a qualified
majority against a Commission proposal on genetically modified organisms,
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, "The Commission
has a legal obligation to make sure that the existing regulatory
framework governing the release of GMOs is correctly applied by
member states. That is why we proposed to lift the current bans
or restrictions on certain GMOs in Austria, France, Germany, Greece
Some of these eight national safeguard measures include bans or
restrictions on cultivation, while others include bans on import
and use in food and feed.
"The fact that the Council rejected all eight proposals raises
a host of questions," Dimas said. "What is certain is
that today’s vote sends a political signal that member states
may want to revisit some aspects of the existing system."
Attempts by the European Commission to overturn the bans follow
a dispute over GM foods at the World Trade Organization, where the
United States claims they are a barrier to trade.
Now the Commission "will have to carefully consider the legal
and scientific bases that underpin any further proposals, as well
as the implications for EU internal market and trading partners,"
Environmentalists were pleased with the Environment Council vote.
Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Emily Diamand said, "Today's
vote to allow EU countries to maintain their bans on GM food and
crops, is a vote for common sense, and a victory for European consumers,
who are overwhelmingly opposed to GM food."
But the environmental group criticized the UK government for again
siding with the GM industry, and voting to have the bans overturned.
"It is bad enough that Elliot Morley should ignore public opinion
on this important issue. But it is outrageous that he should try
and stop other countries saying no to GM," said Diamand. "His
actions will do nothing to improve the UK's battered reputation
on this issue, or help its poor image in Europe."
The proposals to lift the national safeguard measures concern authorized
genetically modified organisms from several manufacturers.
Aventis T25 maize, tolerant to glufosinate-ammonium, has been banned
in Austria. Also called Chardon LL, it is the active ingredient
in Liberty®. It was approved in 1998 for all uses - cultivation,
food and feed, processing.
Austria has expressed the concern about the risk of out-crossing
with wild relatives and conventional crops as well as in sensitive
areas, and worries that no monitoring is conducted.
Austria supplied additional information about its allergenic and
toxicological risk assessment of T25 to the European Food Safety
Authority (EFSA) in response to a request from the Commission. But
in its opinion of July 2004, the EFSA concluded, as it has for all
previous arguments and information, that Austria's additional information
did not invalidate the original risk assessment for T25.
Monsanto's product MON810, known commercially as YieldGard corn,
is also banned in Austria. The maize, expressing the Bt cryIA(b)
gene, is engineered to repel three corn borers. It was approved
in 1998 for all uses.
Austria is concerned about the effects of the Bt toxins on non-target
organisms and development of resistance to toxins by target organisms.
Austrial presented additional information about MON810 to the food
safety authority, citing the potential environmental impact of Bt
toxin and allergenic and toxicological risk assessments. But this
information did not change the authority's original risk assessment
carried out as part of the authorization process..
Syngenta GM maize, Bt176 has been banned in Austria, Germany and
Luxemburg. This Bt-maize is engineered to include genes that confer
tolerance to glufosinate ammonium. In 1997, the EU approved it for
all uses - cultivation, food and feed, processing.
The three countries are concerned about the effects of Bt toxins
on non-target organisms and development of resistance to toxins
by target organisms. They are also worried about risks associated
with the development of resistance to ampicillin antibiotic.
The oilseed rape varieties MS1xRF1 banned in France were approved
by the European Union in 1996. This Swede rape, or canola, is resistant
to the herbicide glufosinate MS1/RF1.
France claims the GM plants have negative effects on human health,
the environment and agriculture and raises concerns about gene drift,
gene flow and the accumulation of resistance genes.
Topas 19/2 made by Bayer CropScience is banned in France and Greece.
This Swede rape, or canola, is tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate
was approved in 1998 for import, storage and processing, but not
France and Greece raise issues concerning dissemination, persistence,
volunteers and gene flow in the environment arising from spillage
or unintended release.
Greece filed additional information with the food safety authority
concerning environmental risks, consumer protection and co-existence
of Topas 19/2. Greece is especially concerned about the plants out-crossing
with their wild relatives, which are consumed by humans in Greece,
as well as the enhanced capability of the rape and its wild relatives
and hybrids to survive and spread. Greece also cites the potential
for multi-resistant wild plants and weeds.
In a separate proposal involving the authorization of placing Monsanto's
MON863 maize, with resistance to corn rootworm, on the European
market for import, processing and feed use, the Council did not
find the required qualified majority for or against. This case will
now go back to the Commission for a final decision.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights Reserved.