Can Commission back out of GMO impasse?

5 May 2008

Barroso put to test over crucial policy debate

Brussels, 5 May 2008 - The credibility of the European Commission will be seriously undermined if it is unable to respond to intense pressure to reform EU GMO policy at a long-awaited internal debate on Wednesday 7 May, warned Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe today.

There are bans on the cultivation of GM crops in five EU countries and no cultivation in 16 others. New official European data clearly shows public opposition to GM foods and there are calls from member states to review the authorisation process that relies exclusively on industry data. As a result, the Commission and its president José Manuel Barroso are under increasing pressure to reform GMO policy. (1)

"The Commission has its back to the wall and Barroso must face up to his responsibilities," said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU GMO campaign director. The Commission persists in hiding behind the often-misguided opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). "The Commission cannot once again pass the buck to EFSA, but must address the concerns of the scientific community and member states," added Contiero.

Commissioners could decide the future of two GM maize varieties, developed by the companies Syngenta and Pioneer/Dow. The Commission's department in charge of approval under EU law is proposing to reject the crops. There is growing scientific evidence showing that the insecticide the plants were designed to produce affects wildlife and may have knock-on effects on Europe's biodiversity. (2)

"Growing these GM crops would put farming and wildlife at an unacceptable risk. The Commission's own department in charge of GMOs is proposing to reject the two maize varieties. Never before have Barroso and his commissioners thrown out a proposal, so why should they do so now?" said Helen Holder, GMO coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe.

Also up for discussion is BASF's 'Amflora' potato - a GM potato containing a gene which confers resistance to certain antibiotics. The World Health Organisation, the European Medicines Agency and the Institut Pasteur are at odds with EFSA on the possible impact of this product on human health and the environment. (3)

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth call on the Commission to:

* support proposals to prohibit the cultivation of the two pesticide GM maize varieties; and reject the GM potato;

* reform EU GMO risk assessment by involving the European Environment Agency in environmental risk evaluations and restructuring EFSA to ensure scientific consistency and impartiality in its opinions.




[1] The legal bans are in France, Austria, Poland, Hungary and Greece.
See p.66 of the March 2008 Eurobarometer survey: .
The French government has called for a debate on the review of the EU's GMO authorisation process to take place at the environment Council on 5 June.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has also repeatedly criticised the EU for "undue delays"
in the authorisation of GMOs. See the latest WTO ruling:

[2] [3] For more information on the dangers associated with GM maize varieties and the GM potato see and



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