GENET archive


2-Plants: EU angry over imports of unauthorised GMO maize

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EU Angry Over Imports of Unauthorised GMO Maize
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   4 Apr 2005

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EU Angry Over Imports of Unauthorised GMO Maize

BRUSSELS - Unauthorised genetically modified (GMO) maize has found its
way into Europe in food and animal feed, angering EU authorities and
highlighting European sensitivity over the issue, the EU executive said
on Friday.

Last week, Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta said some of its maize
seeds were mistakenly contaminated between 2001 and 2004 with Bt-10, an
insect-resistant strain that was not approved for distribution.

This maize strain entered EU markets as seed, food and animal feed. How,
when and where remain unknown, officials say.

"(European Food Safety) Commissioner Markos Kyprianou deplores the fact
that a GMO which has not been authorised through the EU's comprehensive
legislative framework ... has been imported into the European Union,"
Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a daily news briefing.

Up to eight kilograms (17.6 lb) of Bt-10 seeds, within a 100-kg lot of
Bt-11 seeds, were sent from the United States into France for research
during this time, not for commercial growing. Two kg went to Spain. All
the seeds have since been destroyed.

"In addition, we are told that an estimated 1,000 tonnes of Bt-10 food
and feed products may have entered the EU through the Bt-11 export
channel since 2001," Tod said.

EU authorities had demanded a full scientific risk assessment from
Syngenta for Bt-10 and an official view from the US government on
quantities exported to EU countries, he said.

Imports of Bt-11 maize were approved by the EU for use in industrial
processing in 1998. The product is mainly used in animal feed rather than
in food production.

But Bt-10 maize contains a gene making it resistant to an important group
of antibiotics, which Bt-11 does not have. All GMO feed and foods made
from GMOs, whether GMO material exists in the final product or not, must
be labelled in the EU.

But there is one major loophole: there is no requirement to label
products such as meat, milk or eggs obtained from animals fed with GMO
feed or treated with GMO medicinal products.

Green groups are furious at the idea of an unapproved GMO finding its way
into Europe, saying the Commission should have demanded information
sooner to bring the problem under control.

"There are foods not permitted for human consumption in the food chain.
We would expect a little more urgency to make sure that the public has
not been endangered," Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner at Friends of the
Earth, told Reuters.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Commission seeks clarification on Bt10 from US authorities and
SOURCE: European Commission
DATE:   1 Apr 2005

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Commission seeks clarification on Bt10 from US authorities and Syngenta

Reference: IP/05/382
Date: 01/04/2005

Commission seeks clarification on Bt10 from US authorities and Syngenta

The European Commission has written to the US authorities and to the
biotechnology company Syngenta requesting clarification of the situation
regarding the unauthorised genetically modified maize Bt10. According to
the information received to date from the US authorities and from
Syngenta, the developer of Bt10, up to 10 kg of Bt10 seed may have been
exported inadvertently as Bt11 for research purposes to Spain and France.
The resulting materials have all been destroyed. In addition, the
Commission is informed that an estimated 1000 metric tonnes of Bt10 food
and feed products may have entered the EU through the Bt11 export
channels since 2001, the date from which the inadvertent release of Bt10
started. At a meeting yesterday with representatives of Syngenta,
officials of the European Commission were informed that Bt10 included the
gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic ampicillin.

EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissoner Markos Kyprianou said: "The
European Commission deplores the fact that a GMO which has not been
authorised through the EU's comprehensive legislative framework for GMOs,
nor by any other country, has been imported into the EU, and we are
writing to the US authorities asking them to guarantee, by taking the
appropriate measures, that present and future exports of maize to the EU
do not contain GMOs which are not authorised for the EU market, including
Bt10. This case again shows the importance of the European Unions's
comprehensive framework for traceability and labelling of GMOs."

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "In order to avoid any
adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment of such an
accidental release, the Commission has asked Member States to carry out
appropriate control measures to stop Bt10 entering their territory.
Member States should also notify the state of play regarding past or
current national experimental releases of Bt11, and implement any
necessary monitoring and surveillance measures in the surrounding areas
where these releases took place."

The Commission was first informed by the US Mission to the European Union
on 22 March about an inadvertent release in the US of a non authorised
genetically modified maize line called Bt10. The Commission informed the
Member States without delay via the Rapid Alert System for food and feed.
Moreover, the Commission has asked the US Administration for the full
safety information about Bt10 at its disposal without delay, including
the full risk assessments upon which it is based as well as for an urgent
audit and an official view as to the quantities exported, including the
channels they may have taken in the EU.

The Commission has also asked Syngenta, the developer of the Bt10 crop,
to release the full information about the molecular characterisation of
Bt10 and its distinction from Bt11, as well as the specific detection
method and adequate reference materials to trace Bt10. The Commission has
also asked Syngenta to confirm that all Bt10 plantings and seed stock in
the USA have been destroyed or isolated for further destruction. Syngenta
has committed to provide this information next week.

The US government has given reassurance that no food, feed or
environmental concerns are associated with the inadvertent release of
this non authorised genetically modified crop, based on the fact that the
Bt protein in Bt10 is similar to the one in Bt11, which is fully
authorised in the US and which the EU has authorised for use in food and feed.

However, the US authorities did not inform the Commission that Bt10
contains, contrary to Bt11, the gene conferring resistance against the
antibiotic ampicillin. It was only on the 31 of March that this
information was given officially to the Commission by Syngenta. According
to the advice of the European Food Safety Authority, the ampicillin
resistance gene should not be present in crops grown commercially.
However, according to Syngenta, this gene is inactive in Bt10.IP/

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

        Commission only acts after 10 days
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe
DATE:   1 Apr 2005

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Commission only acts after 10 days

Brussels, 1 April 2005 - Friends of the Earth today criticised the
European Commission for doing too little, too late, about the illegal
import into the EU of unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize. It is
ten days since Swiss-based Syngenta announced that it had inadvertently
sold hundreds of tonnes of the unapproved GM corn to US farmers for four
years. The Commission confirmed today that around 1000 tonnes of the
illegal GM maize has entered the European food chain and some was planted
at tests sites in Spain and France. The Commission has now written to the
United States and to the GM company for more information.

The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on March
22. The article revealed that, between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta produced
and sold several hundred tonnes of a GM corn, called Bt10, which contains
an insecticide. The corn has not been approved for human consumption
anywhere worldwide. According to the article, Syngenta and the US
Government were in discussions since last year over what should be done
about the error, and how and when information should be released to the

Initially Syngenta claimed that the maize was "physically identical" to a
GMO maize already approved, called bt11, a view mimicked by the
Commission. However, Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that
the unapproved GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistant
gene, which confers resistance to an important groups of antibiotics.
This week, Syngenta finally admitted this was the case. (1)

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "The European
Commission's response is too little and too late. For ten days they
haven't taken action, even though it was public knowledge that a food
unapproved for human consumption had entered the European food chain. The
public expects and deserves better. The Commission must now get back into
control and demand that any illegal foods are immediately removed from
the food chain."

Adrian Bebb
+ 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)

The original Nature article can be found at:

1. Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the
ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food
Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be
approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.


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