GENET archive


3-Food: EU halts MON 863 GE maize

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Europe halts Monsanto maize
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe
DATE:   20 Sep2004

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Brussels, Belgium, 20 September 2004 - European member states today
failed to support a proposal by the European Commission to import a
controversial genetically modified (GM) maize. The maize, made by US
biotech giant Monsanto, failed to get the required qualified majority
from representatives of the member states in an indicative vote.

The maize, which has been genetically modified to resist certain insects
by producing a toxin in the plant, has been heavily criticised by
scientists from a number of countries, particularly France. The French
Commission for Genetic Engineering (CGB) was alarmed by the results of a
feeding study of the GM maize on rats. This showed significantly
different levels of white blood cells, kidney weights and kidney
structure, as well as lower albumin/globulin rates in the rats fed the GM
maize. The Director of the French national research body, INRA, who is a
member of CGB, stated, "I hear the argument of natural variability, but
what struck me in this file is the number of anomalies. There are too
many elements here where significant variations are observed. I never saw
that in another file." [1]. The confidential minutes of the CGB meeting
(in French) are available from Friends of the Earth.

Last Thursday an alliance of environmental, farming and civil society
organisations [2] wrote to the European Union's executive Commission
accusing them of "caving in" to pressure by the United States and the
World Trade Organisation (WTO), to accept GM foods. The United States,
Canada and Argentina started proceedings last year in the WTO over
Europe's position on GM foods. [3]

Today's indicative vote by a European regulatory committee is the eighth
failed attempt by the Commission to win support for a GM product. The
Commission must now decide whether to send the Monsanto application to a
vote by Ministers. If there is no agreement from Ministers the Commission
will make a decision itself. In May this year the Commission approved a
GM maize even though there was insufficient support from member states.

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The
European Commission seems determined to force genetically modified foods
down consumers' throats even when there are serious questions marks about
their long term safety. Their actions are undemocratic. People in Europe
have made it consistently clear that they do not want to eat genetically
foods. It's time the Commission listened and took action to keep Europe

Contact: Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner, mobile +49 1609 490 1163

Notes to editors
1. Le Monde, 22 April 2004
2. The groups include Friends of the Earth, ATTAC France, ATTAC Hungary,
ATTAC Poland, ATTAC Stuttgart. Both ENDS, Netherlands. CIIR, Catholic
Institute for International Relations. CPE, European Farmers
Coordination. EHNE, Basque Farmers' Union, Spain. Five Years Freeze, UK.
GeneWatch UK. Greenpeace, European Unit. Gooden Waar & Co, Netherlands.
HIVOS, Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries, the
Netherlands. IFOAM, The International Federation of Organic Agriculture
Movements. NordBruk, Sweden. OXFAM Solidarité, Belgium. Rete Lilliput,
Italy. RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Småbrukare i
Sjuhärad, Sweden. Transnational Institute Amsterdam. URFIG, Unité de
Recherche, de Formation et d'Information sur la Globalisation. Weed,
Weltwirtschaft, Ökologie & Entwicklung e.V. Germany. Wemos, Netherlands.
WIDE, Women in Development Europe.
3. The letter can be found at

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  EU readies for another clash on approving new GMO
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   17 Sep 2004

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EU readies for another clash on approving new GMO

BRUSSELS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - EU governments look as divided as ever over
genetically modified (GMO) food as a new request for importing a biotech
maize type engineered by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto comes up for
approval next week.

If approved by EU environment experts, the maize -- modified to resist
the corn rootworm insect -- would be used in animal feed, but not for
growing or for human consumption.

The experts, representing EU governments, will meet on Monday to discuss
whether to allow imports of the maize.

If they agree, it would be the second genetically modified (GMO) product
to receive EU-wide approval since a five-year blockade on new approvals
was lifted, by legal default, in May.

But so far, the EU is as split over biotechnology as when in 1998 several
countries said they would reject any new authorisations until the EU's
biotech laws were tougher.

With some of the bloc's 10 new members sceptical about the merits of GMO
foods, the chances of an approval seem remote.

"With some new member states voting against, the last vote was closer
than it has been before," said one official at the European Commission.

"I don't expect it to be rejected but it (vote) should probably end up
somewhere in the middle, as usual -- neither for or against," she said.

EU member states last voiced their opinion on GMOs in July, when farm
ministers failed to agree on allowing imports of another Monsanto maize
known as NK603, with not enough majority either to approve or reject the
application for imports.

Under the EU's complex decision-making process, if EU member states fail
to agree after three months at ministerial level on allowing a new GMO
into the bloc, then the Commission -- the bloc's executive arm -- may
rubberstamp an authorisation.

A qualified majority within the EU's weighted voting system is needed for
the experts either to approve or reject such an approval. If there are
insufficient votes for this, the dossier will pass to environment ministers.


Despite this year's end of the GMO ban, political deadlock among EU
countries has been the pattern for all Commission attempts to win a new
GMO approval since 1998.

Any new decision to allow imports would fly in the face of European
opinion, since more than 70 percent of consumers are opposed to GMO foods
on heath and environment fears.

"Their (Commission's) actions are... against the will of the European
public who have made it consistently clear that they do not want to eat
genetically foods," said Adrian Bebb at Friends of the Earth Europe.

The EU's food safety agency gave MON 863 the green light in April,
considering it safe for human and animal consumption.

Greens disagree, saying there is not enough scientific evidence to say
the maize is safe. It is "unfit for rats, unfit for humans", environment
group Greenpeace said in a statement.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  Safety fears and secrecy: Greenpeace challenges new GMO application
SOURCE: Greenpeace
DATE:   17 Sep 2004

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Safety fears and secrecy: Greenpeace challenges new GMO application

Brussels/Hamburg, 17 September 2004 - Greenpeace has raised serious
concerns about the safe use in food and feed of a new Monsanto
genetically modified maize, due to be voted by a committee of EU member
state experts on Monday. The environmental organisation has also
criticised the secrecy surrounding this and other GMO evaluations in the EU.

"Documents indicating potential health hazards of food and feed products
should be available for public scrutiny," said Eric Gall of Greenpeace
European Unit. "Here we have yet another example of the secrecy that
characterises the EU approval system for GMOs."

A study on rats conducted for Monsanto revealed that the animals fed the
maize MON863 (modified to contain the toxic protein Bacillius
thuringiensis to protect it from the corn rootworm insect) exhibited a
number of health abnormalities unobserved in rats fed conventional maize.

Greenpeace had asked the German authorities, to whom Monsanto had
initially applied for market approval, to make the test results public
following French media reports about the maize's harmful effect on rats.
After months of negotiations this request was rejected, and the data is
still classified as "confidential business information". A 19-page
summary of the more than 1,000-page study was all that was provided to
Greenpeace. Yet even this summary shows indications of real damage to the
animals tested.

Monsanto has attempted to dismiss the findings by claiming that data
drawn from earlier studies show that these effects are not a matter for
concern. According to Greenpeace, these arguments are neither
scientifically valid nor sufficient to explain the facts. Greenpeace
scientists insist that the differences observed between the groups of
rats during the experiment are valid and critical, and express surprise
that Monsanto did no further experiments to get more evidence at that stage.

Janet Cotter of Greenpeace Science Unit said: "Feeding the rats this GMO
corn maize caused effects in their blood and kidneys which should be
taken seriously. Animals fed with normal maize corn did not show these
reactions. Our scientific analyses show that Monsanto is using
statistical tricks to hide the facts."

Greenpeace also criticises Monsanto and the German authorities for this
lack of transparency. With important data missing from the summary
released, it is impossible to draw a final conclusion about the
experiments. An analysis of the summary, however, suggests the experiment
was poorly designed and used strange statistical methods.

Greenpeace demands the full publication of all relevant data. Under EU
legislation, data concerning GMOs must not be kept secret if they are
relevant for the risk assessment.

Contacts :
Eric Gall, Greenpeace European Unit, tel +32 (0)496 161 58
For scientific enquiries: Janet Cotter, Greenpeace International Science
Unit, tel: +44 (0)1392 263 757/263 782.

A background briefing is available for download at

A scientific paper and the rats study are available on request or at

Katharine Mill
Greenpeace European Unit Media Officer
tel +32 (0)2 274 1903/mobile +32 (0)496 156229


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