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European Commission Presses Ahead with GM Import Approvals

Immediate release (30 Jul 2010)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

Concerns from Member States about the safety of six GM maize varieties did not stop the European Commission approving all six GM applications for import for food and feed this week.

Last month’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council failed to deliver a qualified majority vote for any of the six GM applications, one of which is insect resistant and the rest both insect resistant and herbicide tolerant (ie, “stacked” GMOs). [1] A number of concerns about the safety of the maize crops for health include:

  • Disruption to the maize genome.
  • Compositional changes in the plant.
  • Possible allergenic interactions in stacked GMOs (ie, two GM traits present in the same plant).
  • Questions about genetic stability of the GM inserts.

Previously Members States made recommendations to improve the risk assessment of GM crops as well as co-operation between themselves and the Commission’s advisors the European Food Safety Agency. [2] Major concerns are how to assess the risk of GMOs incorporating several (“stacked”) genes and how to determine if there are significant interactions between genes in combination, which has not been examined by the applicants – safety assessments were based only on data from the single traits. Five out of the six GM maize varieties approved were stacked GMOs. Member State recommendations are still to be finally agreed, but nevertheless the Commission used its powers to approve all six applications following the failure to achieve qualified majority votes.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

These decisions send out a very clear message that the Commission is not waiting for the much needed improvement of GMO risk assessment in the EU. The Commission is more concerned about relations with the USA and WTO than developing the best possible approach to GM approvals so EU citizens can have confidence in it. Many GMOs coming up for authorisation have several GM genes present, and these raise particular concerns about the food and feed safety of imported crops because these traits have only been tested in isolation – how they interact together is unknown.

ENDs

Notes

[1] Details of the applications and Council votes here.

[2] See Council Conclusions on Genetically Modified Organisms, 2912 Environment Council meeting Brussels, 4 December 2008 at: www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/envir/104509.pdf.