Member States voted almost unanimously for proposals that only permit shipments from the US that are certified free of an illegal genetically modified maize, following the recent contamination blunder by Syngenta (see related story).

With no means to test reliably for the contamination, and no segregation from the US, the measures are likely to result in a de facto ban on the import of US maize-based animal feeds for the foreseeable future.

Since Syngenta’s admission that it had sold unlicensed GM maize seeds (called Bt10) for the past four years, the company has refused to make public the information needed for governments to test food and feed imports for the illegal strain of GM maize.

The new EU law is applicable to Us imports of gluten feed and brewers grains for animal feed that are produced from GM maize, and states: “Despite requests made by the Commission, the US authorities were not in a position to provide any guarantee on the absence of Bt10, considering the lack of segregation or traceability measure in the United States”.

GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth (FoE), Adrian Bebb said that the new law would now join a list of other de facto bans on the import of animal feeds from the US.

“Today’s emergency measure will be unpopular with US government and the biotech industry but will start to protect Europe from more contaminated products,” he commented. “Syngenta must now come clean and give European countries the information needed to reliably test for illegal contamination in foods and animal feeds already imported into the EU.”

The environmental organisation is calling upon the Commission to take the matter further by: urgently reviewing the EU’s GM monitoring system to provide better public protection; demanding a public investigation into how a biotech company could sell farmers illegal seeds without anyone knowing; and insist the Syngenta, the polluter, pay for all subsequent testing in Europe, instead of the public.

“The public should never have been exposed to an untested an illegal genetically modified crop,” Mr Bebb continued. “This incident exposes an incompetent and complacent industry, an absence of regulation in the US, and a breakdown in Europe’s monitoring of food imports.”

“Immediate action is needed at an international level to prevent further contamination in the future.”

By Jane Kettle

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