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EU Commission to Reject GM Maize Varieties
Jennifer Rankin

Upcoming debate on biotech policy likely to result in bar on two types of maize.
The European Commission is likely to refuse permission for two companies to grow genetically modified (GM) maize in Europe when it holds a long-awaited debate on biotech policy next week.

On Wednesday (7 May), the EU's 27 commissioners will hold an orientation debate on genetically-modified products in an attempt to chart a course on the controversial crops that have split the EU. At the meeting, the commissioners are expected to support Stavros Dimas, the environment commissioner, in his bid to reject approval for two genetically-modified maizes, Syngenta's Bt11 and Pioneer Hi-Bred International's 1507.

The Commission is also expected to refer a GM potato developed by German chemical company BASF back to the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) for further study and to ease restrictions imposed by Austria on using GM crops for animal feed. Sources familiar with the Commission's discussions think that Dimas will agree to ease the Austrian ban in exchange for a Commission rejection of the maize applications.

European Voice has seen two draft decisions prepared by the Commission's environment department on these maize crops, which are genetically engineered to resist pests. Both documents conclude that the products should not be approved for growing in the EU. They each state that “the degree of the scientific uncertainty attached to the results of the evaluation of the available scientific information is high, and...the level of risk generated by the cultivation of this product for the environment is unacceptable”. They also call for “a more comprehensive risk assessment” for both modified maizes. The EU has not approved any GM crops for cultivation since 1998.

Médard Schoenmaeckers, a spokesman at Syngenta, said: “The fate of such an important technology should not be in the hands of one commissioner and we certainly hope that the Commission will take a collective approach.”

Scientific concerns
The two maize varieties have been stuck in the EU's approval queue for years. In 2005 EFSA concluded that the crops were unlikely to have adverse effects on human health, animal health or the environment. But the Commission's environment officials are concerned that EFSA has been overtaken by new scientific evidence. Their draft opinion cites evidence from scientific papers that claim that both maize crops can have adverse effects on some non-target insects, such as the Monarch butterfly.

“EFSA have made the appropriate studies. On Bt11, all the studies that are needed have been submitted to EFSA and EFSA has twice given scientific approval to the findings,” said Schoenmaeckers.

Dimas has won approval from conservationists for his stance. Adrian Bebb, a food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Nobody knows what the long-term impacts [of planting GM crops] will be and Dimas is obliged to follow the precautionary principle.” A 2001 directive on genetically modified organisms states that the Commission is obliged to follow the precautionary principle.

The EU is split on biotech policy and the routine failure of the 27 members to reach the necessary qualified majority on importing and cultivating GM crops means that decisions are regularly referred back to the Commission for approval.

A spokesperson for Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that he wanted the college to explore how the Commission could best play its part in the EU authorisation process for GMs “in the context of the complex realities on this issue including the different views in member states and public opinion”.


© 2008 European Voice.
Source: EuropeanVoice.com

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The latest issue of Plant Physiology (July 2008; Volume 147, Issue 3) has a special section on next generation of biotech crops especially on nutritional improvement.  These papers can
be downloaded free!

Influence of Transgenosis on the Plant-Insect- Relationships, in Particular on Chemically       Mediated Interactions

Effect of Transgenes Conferring Enhanced Pathogen Resistance on the Interaction with Symbiotic        Fungi in Rice

Impact on the Soil Ecosystem through Natural and Genetically Engineered Organisms:
      Effects, Methods and Definition of Damage as Contribution to Risk Assessment

The Decomposition of Bt-Corn on the Fields and its Impact on Earthworms and on other        Macroorganisms in the Soil

Environmental Post-market Monitoring of Bt-maize:
       Approaches to Detect Potential Effects on Butterflies and Natural Enemies

Columns by Dan Gardner

Against the Grains: 'The Terminator Hoax '

Decisions taken in the 84th Meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee

Brazilian Health Biotech: Fostering Crosstalk Between Public and Private Sectors

Biotechnology Related Article Appeared on 'Samyukta Karnataka' ( Regional Language )
June 12, 2008.

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