EU votes on growing genetically modified potatoes

4 December 2006

Contamination of food "cannot be excluded", says biotech industry

Brussels, 4 December - Friends of the Earth Europe has warned that Europe's potatoes will be at risk of contamination if genetically modified (GM) potatoes are grown commercially. EU Member States will vote today on a proposal to grow GM potatoes - the first EU vote on the cultivation of GM crops for 8 years. [1]Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said, "Allowing genetically modified potatoes to be grown in Europe would be a disaster. These potatoes are not intended for human consumption, but the biotech industry itself admits that they would end up in the food chain. The public would end up eating them if they liked it or not, which would hugely damage trust in Europe's potato industry."

The potato has been genetically modified by the chemical giant BASF to increase its amylopectin content, which is used to produce starch. Although it is not intended to enter the food chain, BASF state that "it cannot be excluded that amylopectin potato. may be used as or may be present in food". In this case BASF say it will be labeled as 'produced from genetically modified potato'. [2]

Furthermore, if approved today the potatoes could be grown before they are authorised for human consumption, even though BASF admits it cannot prevent them entering the human food chain. Today's vote by member states will be solely for the cultivation of the GM potato to make starch for industrial uses, for example in the production of paper. The European Commission is still considering a separate application for them to be used as foods and animal feeds.


[1] The Regulatory 2001/18 committee, comprised of experts from each EU member state, will vote today on the application for commercial cultivation of the genetically modified potato EH92-527-1. The application has been approved already by the European Commission. If the committee does not agree by a qualified majority, then the application is sent to the Council of Ministers.

[2] Application for Amylopectin Potato Event EH92-527-1 according to Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003, BASF Plant Sciences.



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