Europe halts Commission's GM agreement

Member States of the EU this week halted the European Commission's proposals to allow genetically modified (GM) maize to be imported into Europe from US biotech food giant, Monsanto.

Following controversial claims last week that the Commission was "caving in" to pressure to buy the GM maize from the American company (see related story), the Member States failed to give their support.

The maize was in question by scientists, in particular from the French Commission for Genetic Engineering (CGB), after tests revealed that the maize caused seriously damage to the internal organs and immune systems of rats.

This week's indicative vote is the eighth failed attempt by the European Commission to win support for the distribution of GMOs within Europe. It must now decide whether to send the Monsanto application to a vote by ministers.

GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe, Adrian Bebb, said the Commission needed to listen to the rest of Europe, who had made it abundantly clear that they did not want GM foods.

"The European Commission seems determined to force GM foods down consumers' throats, even when there are serious question marks about their long-term safety," he said. "Their actions are undemocratic. It's time the Commission took action to keep Europe GM-free."

Research from US scientists at the National Academy of Sciences this week stated that a variety of GM grass seed can contaminate other grass and wild plants up to 21km away - the furthest distance for GM contamination measured to date - also re-enforces concerns throughout Europe about the unintentional spread of GM crops. In May this year, the Commission approved a variety of GM maize, and earlier this month it legalised the buying and growing of GM maize seeds throughout the EU (see related story), even though there was insufficient support, both from the European public (see related story) and the Member States.

If there is no agreement from the ministers then the Commission must make a decision itself. The debate goes on.

By Jane Kettle




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