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2-Plants: Hungary bans Monsanto GMO maize MON810 seeds



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TITLE:  Hungary Bans Monsanto GMO Maize Seeds
SOURCE: Reuters, by David Chance
DATE:   20 Jan 2005

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Hungary Bans Monsanto GMO Maize Seeds

BUDAPEST - Hungary, one of the biggest grain producers in the new EU,
became the first country in eastern Europe to ban GMO maize when on
Wednesday it outlawed the planting of Monsanto Co's MON 810 maize hybrid
seeds.

The Agriculture Ministry said it had banned MON 810 maize seed planting
pending tests to establish whether GM crops contaminate other crops and
said old stocks must be destroyed, although it will continue to allow GMO
maize in food production.

"The temporary measure bans the production, use, distribution and import
of hybrids...deriving from the MON 810 maize line," the ministry said in
a statement.

MON 810 is allowed in the European Union, but individual countries
currently have discretion over whether to allow it and other gene-altered
crops.

No GMO crops are grown in Hungary at present and the Hungarian ban on MON
810 will come into force on Thursday and remain until tests are completed.

Anti-GMO campaigners say the technology is not proven and that it could
contaminate other crops, while the industry says it vastly benefits
consumers and there is no evidence of contamination from numerous trials
of the crops.

Monsanto said two maize variants based on MON 810 had been awaiting
approval in Hungary and that the ban was not justified, adding that
Hungary had made a unilateral decision and did not appear to have
consulted the European Commission.

Brussels-based Monsanto spokesman Daniel Rahier said the company did not
believe that the issue of the co-existence of GMO and non-GMO crops could
be used to justify a ban.

"The ban was a great disappointment for us, there was no condition which
required this action, no one wanted to import genetically modified corn
seed into Hungary," said Mihaly Czepo, who deals with biotechnology
issues for the company in Hungary.

The ministry said the Monsanto hybrid will still be allowed to ship
across Hungary, although packages must not be opened, nor the seed
modified in any way, the ministry said.

"The ban applies to seed producers and distributors as well as farmers,"
the ministry said.

Hungary is a major grains producer and had a bumper harvest in 2004 of
16.7 million tonnes of grain, up 90.5 percent on the previous year, and
much of that is exported to the European Union.

Maize output alone was 8.3 million tonnes in 2004.

Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg have bans on particular
products -- three GMO maize varieties and two types of rapeseed.

Opponents of the technology have expressed concern that the new European
Union countries, many of them relatively poor ex-communist countries,
could provide a back door for GMO food production, something the industry
has denied.

Poland allows the import of GMO maize and is in the process of passing a
law which would allow for growing of GMO maize in Poland, which is
expected to be voted on in parliament this year.

Romania, also a big grains producer which hopes to join the EU in 2007,
allows genetically modified soya and is keen to expand GMO food production.




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