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Italy’s GM Maize Ban Tips EU Balance, Leaves UK in the Cold

Immediate release (5 Apr 2013)

Calls to: Pete Riley 07903 341 065

The announcement this week that Italy intends to ban the cultivation of Monsanto’s MON810 [1] GM maize, following a report by the Italian Health Ministry, represents a significant development in the long-term prospects for GM crops in the European Union and leaves the UK Government increasingly isolated among the largest Member States.

Nine Member States now ban Monsanto’s insect resistant MON810 (the only GM crop grown in the EU), outnumbering the five countries [2] that permit it to be gown. Bans are currently in place in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria and Luxemburg. In the past EC attempts to overturn bans in Hungary and Austria were supported by the UK but failed to achieve the necessary votes to be carried. Spain grows over 90% of the European GM maize crop.

The nine countries banning MON810 have 56% of the total EU population and 52% of all farmland (56% of arable land). MON810 is grown for grain (mainly for animal feed) and not silage. MON810 is not grown in northern European countries, such as the UK and Sweden, because in these climates grains do not ripen in time to be harvested and the European Corn Borer, which the maize is genetically modified to resist, is not a pest.

This means over 70% of EU arable land is either unsuitable for MON810 or has banned it.

In 2012 the EU area under GM cultivation fell in three of the five countries that permit MON810 to be cultivated. Only in Portugal and Spain was there an increase in cultivation. In the next largest grower, the Czech Republic, the area under MON810 has fallen 64% since 2008, and in Romania the area under MON810 fell from over 6,000ha in 2008 to just 189ha in 2012. [2]

In terms of voting at the Council of Ministers, Italy’s decision to join the countries banning the GM crop now makes it very difficult for the Commission to take any action to lift the bans because the nine Member States have 162 votes out of the 345 total, which means a qualified majority against the bans (255 votes) is impossible to achieve.

Commenting on the latest developments in the EU, Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

The Italian’s decision to ban Monsanto’s maize is further evidence that the major agricultural nations of Europe reject this GM technology. It also undermines the desires of the European Commission and the UK Government to force GM crops on an unwilling European public. The pro-GM position of UK farm minister Owen Paterson is looking even more isolated than it was last week.

Three out of four of the largest countries in Europe now oppose the cultivation of the only GM crop which can be grown commercially in 2013. The European Commission should take note and adopt policies that will make Europe GM-free, including encouraging the import of GM-free soya for animal feed to meet public demand. Instead the Commission has a record of dogmatic inflexibility on GM issues, so it is up to Member States to push through changes that meet public demands for GM-free production and to switch to more environmentally friendly farming method based on agroecology. Insect resistant GM crops like MON810 merely encourage farmers to adopt unsustainable rotations and farming practices.

ENDs

Notes

[1] Stop the Crop, 4 April 2013. “Italian Health minister demands ban of GM maize”

[2] A small area of MON810 is grown in Poland each year, but this area has remained static for many years, and since then a ban on seed sales was introduced. Other EU countries growing MON810 are Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. Spain grew 88% of the EU’s MON810 maize in 2012.