GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Commission Says No to EP Call for Ban on Frankencorn



    BRUSSELS, April 9 (Reuter) - The European Commission rejected on
Wednesday a European Parliament call for a ban on gene-modified maize sales,
saying it had no legal powers to do this and defending its decision to clear
the product last December. 

    "There is no possibility for the European Commission to do what the
European Parliament asks," Commission spokesman Nikolaus van der Pas told a
new conference relayed to Brussels from Strasbourg, France, where the
parliament is meeting. 

    The parliament demanded on Tuesday the suspension of all sales of
genetically modified maize in the European Union, pending further health and
safety tests. 

    "The language used, which was particularly strong, is not justified," the
spokesman said. 

    Euro-MPs condemned the European Commission's market clearance of
gene-altered U.S. maize, granted in the face of opposition from several EU
governments, and accused the EU executive of not adequately analysing the
long-term effects of genetic manipulations. 

    Van der Pas rejected the charges as well as assertions that the
Commission had bent to commerical lobby pressure in clearing the maize,
developed by Ciba <CIGZn.S>Geigy but now owned by Novartis <NOVZn.S>, the
newly created Swiss pharmaceuticals giant. 

    Van der Pas said the Commission had countered Euro-MPs' charges even
before Tuesday's resolution but had been ignored, a point he said Commission
President Jacques Santer would raise with his counterpart in parliament. 

    But deputies' criticism about the bloc's complicated and secretive
committee procedures clearly struck a nerve, with van der Pas insisting on
the Commission's line that EU governments revise the procedures in their
talks about EU treaty reform. 

    On a related issue, van der Pas said Austria's evidence in support of its
national ban on the gene-maize appeared to throw no new light on the issue,
meaning Vienna's ban was unlikely to stand up. 

    "At first sight, but I say this with all reservations, we do not have the
impression that there are really new elements which can allow the Commission
to review its decision," he said. 

12:31 04-09-97