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APPROVAL: Ministers wary of hot GM potato




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  MINISTERS WARY OF HOT GM POTATO

SOURCE: The Daily Telegraph, UK

AUTHOR: Bruno Waterfield

URL:    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/16/wgm116.xml

DATE:   16.07.2007

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MINISTERS WARY OF HOT GM POTATO

The European Union is expected to sidestep hostile public opinion by approving the cultivation of a genetically modified crop via the ”back door” of a bureaucratic Brussels procedure.

Europe’s farm ministers meet in Brussels today to consider a European Commission proposal to allow a new antibiotic-resistant GM potato, the first biotech crop released for planting since 1998.

EU officials predict that ministers, running scared of anti-GM public opinion across Europe, will fail to agree to either block or approve the potato. This will mean that the ”proposed act shall be adopted by the Commission” via the obscure process of ”comitology”, allowing governments to pass the buck to unelected officials.

Greenpeace is concerned that the procedure will allow the Commission to allow the planting of BASF’s EH92-527-1 potato following earlier clearance from the European Food Safety Authority.

Marco Contiero, the GM policy adviser for Greenpeace, said: ”This mechanism allows the Commission not to take political responsibility as a risk manager.

”Many member states also use this authorisation procedure to duck political responsibility to their citizens who are opposed to GM crops. It is convenient to all governments but especially those like the UK, where the authorities support GM but British people do not.”

BASF’s genetically modified potato, which includes genes for resistance to antibiotics, would be used in industrial starch production rather than for food.

Despite the overwhelming weight of scientific advice showing biotech to be safe and trade war threats from the United States, EU governments are still wary of the pan-European campaign against GM crops which sprang up in the late 1990s.

Britain is a friend of biotech and the EU’s other 26 member states are evenly split, between supporters, abstainers and outright opponents.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  EU VOTE ON COMMERCIAL CULTIVATION OF CONTROVERSIAL GENETICALLY ENGINEERED POTATO ’COULD LET GMO CROPS IN THROUGH THE BACK DOOR’

SOURCE: Greenpeace International, European Unit, Belgium

AUTHOR: Press Release

URL:    http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/press-releases2/EU-vote-on-GE-potato

DATE:   13.07.2007

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EU VOTE ON COMMERCIAL CULTIVATION OF CONTROVERSIAL GENETICALLY ENGINEERED POTATO ’COULD LET GMO CROPS IN THROUGH THE BACK DOOR’

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The EU could be on the verge of letting controversial genetically engineered crops ’in through the back door’ Greenpeace warned today, in advance of a crucial vote by agriculture ministers on Monday July 16. The EU Agriculture ministers will vote on a proposal by the European Commission to allow the large scale cultivation of a controversial genetically engineered potato which includes genes for resistance to antibiotics, to be used for starch production and as animal feed.

If approved, this would be the first time since 1998 that a genetically engineered plant is authorised for growing in the EU.

Greenpeace called on ministers to reject the potato developed by German chemical company BASF, claiming that it poses significant risks to health and the environment. The genetically engineered potato contains a gene which conveys resistance to antibiotics. Under EU law, genes of this kind which may have adverse effects on human health and the environment should have been phased out by the end of 2004. Despite this, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave a positive opinion on the BASF potato, stating that its antibiotic resistance genes do not pose a ”relevant” risk to human health or the environment. The EFSA does not rule out, however, that the cultivation of the potato could lead to antibiotic resistance effects.

Given that, and considering the industrial scale cultivation for which the potato is designed, Greenpeace considers the approach by the EFSA dangerous:

”Increasing antibiotic resistance in human and animals is a widely recognised medical problem. Any unnecessary use of antibiotic resistance genes in plants is therefore irresponsible because it poses a direct threat to human and animal health” said Marco Contiero policy adviser on GMOs at Greenpeace European Unit.

Greenpeace also warns that the BASF potato did not undergo full risk assessment as required under EU law:

”The European Commission is asking Member States to approve the BASF potato, even though basic information on its health and environmental impacts is missing. The European Food Safety Authority did not investigate the effects of the BASF potato on biodiversity and the ecological implications of its cultivation. BASF did not supply the EFSA with data on the impact of its genetically engineered potato on the environment. Instead, it limited its analysis to the effects of surrounding wildlife on its potato. This makes a mockery of EU law (1), which requires that all applications for genetically engineered plants must include a full environmental impact assessment” Mr Contiero explained.

”Even though the EFSA acknowledges that the data provided by BASF show many irregularities that could have serious implications for health and environment, it has simply accepted the BASF request without further, independent scientific investigation. This potato is likely to contaminate the food chain and the environment. If approved, the potato can be legally planted anywhere in the EU, even though most member states still have no measures in place to protect conventional and organic agriculture from contamination by genetically engineered plants.” Mr Contiero concluded.

 

Related Reports

Background note to Council vote on BASF potato, 16 July 2007

http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/policy-papers-briefings/background-note-to-council-vot

Notes to Editor

(1) Directive 2001/18/EC requires a full environmental risk assessment to be carried out for any genetically engineered plants before being authorised for cultivation in the EU (Article 12 and 13, Annex II and III).


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