GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Austria Lobbies for Frankencorn Ban



    LUXEMBOURG, April 10 (Reuter) - Austria urged its European Union partners
on Thursday to support its national ban on gene- modified maize when it comes
up for vetting before key EU committees. 

    In a statement to the EU's consumer affairs ministers, Vienna said its
own reservations about the maize and those of Italy and Luxembourg should not
be brushed aside by the European Commission, which cleared EU sales late last
year. 

    "It would be very regrettable if the serious and well-founded
reservations of three EU members should be swept under the carpet, without
any consideration for the sensitivity of the question and of the scepticism
of a large slice of public opinion," the statement said. 

    A European Commission spokesman said on Wednesday Austria's evidence in
support of its ban appeared to throw no new light on the issue, meaning
Vienna's ban was unlikely to stand up. 

    Consumer affairs commissioner Emma Bonino told a news conference after
the ministerial meeting on Thursday the Commission would have to follow the
EU scientific committees' advice "whether people like it or not." 

    Under EU rules member states can impose unilateral bans on public health
grounds but must notify, and get clearance from the Commission, which decides
on bans after taking advice from specialised committees. 

    Earlier this week the European Parliament called for an EU sales ban on
the maize pending further safety tests. But the Commission said on Wednesday
it had no legal powers to do so. 

    The maize was developed by Ciba Geigy, now owned by Novartis <NOVZn.S>,
the newly created Swiss pharmaceuticals giant. 

    Bonino recently took over responsibility for food health at the
Commission after a the executive was reorganised following the public health
scare over mad cow disease. 

    Italy has banned cultivation of the maize on its soil, as has France,
while Luxembourg has banned its general use. 

15:02 04-10-97