Greenpeace urges Ministers to reject GM maize Bt-11 amid new controversy on GMO evaluation procedures

Last edited 23 April 2004 at 8:00am
23 April, 2004

Brussels On the same day that French newspaper Le Monde reveals confidential expert opinion that raises doubts about the safety of a genetically modified (GM) maize recently cleared by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Greenpeace has released a report criticising the new EU GMO evaluation procedures. The environmental group today urges European Agriculture Ministers to reject a Commission proposal to allow the import and marketing of a GM sweet corn for human consumption.

The EU Agriculture Council on 26 April in Luxembourg will consider a European Commission proposal to allow the marketing of Bt-11, a genetically modified sweet maize variety produced by Swiss firm Syngenta. This is the first time EU ministers will vote on a GMO application since the Environment Council set in place a de facto moratorium on new approvals in June 1999. If Ministers do not reject the proposal with a qualified majority, the Commission can authorise the maize regardless, and has already said it intends to do so.

Greenpeace calls on Ministers to vote against the Commission proposal and not authorise Bt- 11 for the European market [1]. Bt-11 maize has been genetically modified to produce a toxin which is naturally found only in bacteria. Its EU scientific risk assessment was undertaken according to outdated rules [2], and serious questions remain concerning both the quality of the data provided by Syngenta and the assessment of the EU's Scientific Committee on Foods [3]. The French Food Safety Authority (AFSSA), the Belgian Biosafety Council and the Austrian Federal Environment Agency have all raised concerns about its assessment [4].

Moreover, in a report released today, Greenpeace claims that the EFSA has so far failed to conduct a proper risk assessment of GMOs. The EFSA, created to replace the old EU scientific committees, will play a major role in the future authorisation of GMOs, as it will be directly responsible for their evaluation under new European legislation [5].

"To lift the moratorium now by authorising a highly controversial GMO with a flawed risk assessment is no way to win the trust of a public massively opposed to the use of GMOs in food and agriculture," warned Eric Gall of Greenpeace European Unit, adding: "Ministers should reject Bt-11 and instead take action to tighten up evaluation procedures which are opaque and inadequate. Consumers and the environment deserve better."

In its report, Greenpeace scrutinises the EFSA evaluations of GM oilseed rape GT73 and GM maize NK603. The report concludes that the EFSA evaluations are unsatisfactory and open to the same criticisms as the old evaluation procedures. GMOs are being approved despite crucial data being missing, an awareness of technical failures concerning the transferred gene sequences and evidence showing significant differences in the plants' composition compared to normal seeds.

The inadequacy of EFSA evaluation procedures is confirmed by revelations published in Le Monde today. The French newspaper obtained confidential documents from the Biomolecular Engineering Commission (Commission du G

Follow Greenpeace UK