Greenpeace will sue Commission to save butterfly species
Brussels, 1 July, 1999 -- Greenpeace today presented an independent legal opinion prepared by a German law firm which argues that the European Commission is obliged to cancel the market approvals for all genetically engineered Bt-crops. Allowing Bt-maize to be grown commercially while halting the approval process for a new similar crop is a breach of EU law.
“The Commission iced the approval of new Bt-maize but turns a blind eye to similar crops already in the fields,” said Greenpeace political advisor Thomas Schweiger. “It must be embarrassing to admit past mistakes but these Bt-crops need to be taken out of the market immediately, before butterfly caterpillars are exposed to toxic Bt-pollen.”
The legal opinion prepared for Greenpeace gives evidence that the authorisation for Novartis and Monsanto Bt-maize lines or plants already on the market should be withdrawn. Different treatment of products with similar risks is not justified under the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Directive 90/220/EEC.
Greenpeace considers taking legal action if the Commission fails to act. “Greenpeace has already taken the US government to court over Bt-crops and we will not hesitate to take similar steps in Europe if necessary”, said Schweiger.
The European Commission halted an approval process of Pioneer’s Bt-maize after recent findings by Cornell University team, which showed that pollen from Bt maize was harming Monarch butterflies. The Commission wants to hear the opinion of the Scientific Committee before continuing the process.
In a letter to Greenpeace dated June 11, 1999 the Commission writes, “The Commission is fully aware of the potential risks of genetically modified Bt-toxin resistant crop plants to non-target and beneficial organisms. A consent for placing on the market of a product will only be given after a thorough and careful assessment based on and taking into account all available scientific information.”
“The Commission’s logic is skewed,” said Schweiger. “It is not taking action on the already approved lines of Bt-maize even though it is obvious that the products already out there present much greater risk than the ones in the pipeline.”
The maize has been genetically engineered to produce a toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and it pollinates from June to August. A recent Cornell University study showed that 44 percent of American Monarch butterfly larvae fed with Bt-maize pollen died within 48 hours. Greenpeace published recently a list of more than 100 European butterfly species that could be threatened by the toxic pollen of Bt-maize. The list can be seen at www.greenpeace.org/~geneng.
Thomas Schweiger, Greenpeace Political Advisor, +32.2.280 1400
Mika Railo, Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31.20.5249 548