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6 EU:Greens Demand Action on Non-Approved Gene Potatoes



Advance copy, Press Release dated 29 April 1999

Greens Demand Action on Non-Approved Gene Potatoes
Swedish Government Cheating on Gene Potato Commercialisation
The Swedish company, Amylogene, wants to grow genetically engineered potatoes with an increased starch content and has applied for consent under the marketing provisions of Directive 90/220 (dealing with the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms-GMOs). This dossier is on hold in the European Commission because other member states have objected to the use of an antibiotic-resistant marker gene used in the transformation of the potato. The company, which already has a local licence to grow the crop for testing purposes, has found a way of manipulating the regulations to by-pass the EU approval process. It has been given permission by the Swedish government authorities to plant 600 hectares (more than 6% of the total land use for starch potato cultivation in the country) for commercial production on the grounds that the potatoes will be grown under contract and then processed by the company. The company has persuaded the Swedish authorities that this does not constitute a 'placing on the market' and that the provisions of Part C of the Directive, requiring EU consent for commercial cultivation, do not apply.
The Swedish Association of Ecological Farmers, Ekologiska Lantbrukarna, has written to the EU Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard asking her to revoke this permit.
The move by Amylogene is condemned by Swedish Green MEP Inger Schorling "It is simply unacceptable, at a time of intense debate throughout Europe on the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, for the Swedish authorities to permit commercialisation of this crop through what looks like a legal loophole" she said. "The GMO Directive is currently being revised and the European Parliament has called overwhelmingly for the use of antibiotic-resistant genes to be taken off the market. I will ask the Swedish Ministry of Agriculture to withdraw this permit immediately."
Hiltrud Breyer MEP (Germany), who has played a leading role in seeking to tighten up the rules on GMOs, commented "This looks like a carefully designed strategy to destroy the environmental and public health controls on the use of GMOs which we already have in place. There are temporary bans in place in several EU countries on the commercial cultivation of GM crops, pending re-assessment of the risks involved. A leading British micro-biologist and government advisor, Dr. John Heritage, has this week warned of the dangers of increases in diseases such as meningitis because of abuse of antibiotics in genetic engineering and agriculture. If the Swedish government and the EU Commissioner do not act swiftly, we will have to consider what other action we can take to stop this cheating".




§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§
Steve Emmott
Policy Advisor-Genetic Engineering
Green Group in the European Parliament
1047 Brussels

Tel +32 2 284 2026
Fax +32 2 284 2026

Draft Press Release

Greens Demand Action on Non-Approved Gene Potatoes
Swedish Government Cheating on Gene Potato Commercialisation
The Swedish company, Amylogene, wants to grow genetically engineered potatoes with an 
increased starch content and has applied for consent under the marketing provisions of Directive 
90/220 (dealing with the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms-GMOs). This 
dossier is on hold in the European Commission because other member states have objected to 
the use of an antibiotic-resistant marker gene used in the transformation of the potato. The 
company, which already has a local licence to grow the crop for testing purposes, has found a 
way of manipulating the regulations to by-pass the EU approval process. It has been given 
permission by the Swedish government authorities to plant 600 hectares (more than 6% of the 
total land use for starch potato cultivation in the country) for commercial production on the 
grounds that the potatoes will be grown under contract and then processed by the company. The 
company has persuaded the Swedish authorities that this does not constitute a ‘placing on the 
market’ and that the provisions of Part C of the Directive, requiring EU consent for commercial 
cultivation, do not apply.
The Swedish Association of Ecological Farmers, Ekologiska Lantbrukarna, has written to the 
EU Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard asking her to revoke this permit.
The move by Amylogene is condemned by Swedish Green MEP Inger Schorling “It is simply 
unacceptable, at a time of intense debate throughout Europe on the use of genetic engineering in 
agriculture, for the Swedish authorities to permit commercialisation of this crop through what 
looks like a legal loophole” she said. “The GMO Directive is currently being revised and the 
European Parliament has called overwhelmingly for the use of antibiotic-resistant genes to be 
taken off the market. I will ask the Swedish Ministry of Agriculture to withdraw this permit 
immediately.”
Hiltrud Breyer MEP (Germany), who has played a leading role in seeking to tighten up the 
rules on GMOs, commented “This looks like a carefully designed strategy to destroy the 
environmental and public health controls on the use of GMOs which we already have in place. 
There are temporary bans in place in several EU countries on the commercial cultivation of GM 
crops, pending re-assessment of the risks involved. A leading British micro-biologist and 
government advisor, Dr. John Heritage, has this week warned of the dangers of increases in 
diseases such as meningitis because of abuse of antibiotics in genetic engineering and 
agriculture. If the Swedish government and the EU Commissioner do not act swiftly, we will 
have to consider what other action we can take to stop this cheating”.


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