GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Action Against Gene-Maize in the EU by the Dutch Coalition for a Different Europe

Action Against Gene-Maize in the EU

AMSTERDAM, April 18th 1997 -- At the end of the afternoon a group of
forty activists from the Dutch Coalition for a Different Europe has
delivered a huge genetically manipulated maize-cob at the entrance of
the Barbizon Hotel, where the European Union's environment ministers
are informally meeting this weekend.

Human corn-cobs handed out small bags with ecological popcorn and
information leaflets to the public at the square in front of Amsterdam
Central Station. After a short march to the Barbizon Hotel, where the
Environmental Council was to start its meeting a few hours later, a
representative of the Dutch Coalition for a Different Europe presented
a gilted corn cob and a petition to Dutch environment minister
Margaretha de Boer, the current president of the Environmental

In its petition, the Dutch Coalition called on the European Union's
environment ministers to urge the European Commission to withdraw the
market admission for the gene-maize which it granted to Novartis last
December. This dangerous genetical experiment with consumers, animals
and the environment should be stopped immediately.

Minister De Boer promised to convey this message to her colleagues,
while openly admitting that the decison-making process which has led
to the market-admission of the maize is far from democratic. Until the
gene-maize is banned from the European Union, the Dutch Coalition for
a Different Europe will keep reminding Mrs. de Boer and her colleagues
of their responsibility.

The genetically manipulated maize, which is resistant against insects,
an antibiotic and a pesticide, has been developed by Ciba-Geigy (now
Novartis) and was first grown commercially in 1996. According to the
precautionary principle, artificial resistance against antibiotics,
which is incorporated in the gene-maize should be forbidden. The
pesticide-resistance means that the cultivation of maize will become
even more dependent on the use of pesticides than it is already.

Today it is the gene-maize, but companies like Novartis and Monsanto
want to introduce dozens of new genetically manipulated food crops on
the market. The European citizens never asked for genetically
manipulated food and are very concerned about the risks for health and

On 25th June 1996, only one of the fifteen EU environment ministers
voted in favour of admission of the gene-maize in the EU. However,
this one vote in favour was enough to make the thirteen votes against
meaningless: according to current EU regulations the European
Commission has the last word if the Environmental Council cannot reach
a unanimous decision.

Under strong pressure by Ciba-Geigy, seed merchants and producers, the
processing industry and the US government, the EU Commission admitted
the maize to the European Union in December 1996. This implies that
the gene-maize can presently be used in animal fodder and as an
ingredient for human food products.

In reaction to the Commission's decision, the EU member states
Austria, Italy and Luxembourg have imposed national bans for the
gene-maize; for the moment, French farmers are not allowed to grow the
gene-maize. Two weeks ago, the European Parliament overwhelmingly
voted in favour of a resolution which called upon the Commission to
forbid the maize pending further research into health- and
environmental risks.

The Dutch Coalition for a Different Europe appeals to the
Environmental Council of the EU to take the consequences of its
decision of June 1996 and support the resolution of the European

The EU institutions cannot continue ignoring the strong reservations
of European citizens concerning genetically manipulated food. It is
now time to act: gene-food should be banned from the European Union.
Hiding behind weak excuses (last week a Commission spokesman stated
that it has become impossible to ban the maize now that it has been
admitted) will only lead to a serious loss of credibility of the EU

The Dutch Coalition for a Different Europe brings together more than
50 Dutch NGOs and political parties. The Coalition is preparing an
Alternative Summit which will take place June 12-17 1997 in Amsterdam,
parallel to the EU-summit.

For more information on the Alternative Summit contact:

Dutch Coalition for a Different Europe
P.O. Box 54, 1000 AB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: +31-20-4222712; Fax: +31-20-4223171;
The Dutch Coalition planned this action as part of the Global Days of
Action Against Biotechnology & Cloning, coordinated by the Pure Food
Campaign, USA

For more info on the Global Action Days, contact:
Ronnie Cummins, Pure Food Campaign USA
Tel (218) 226-4164   Fax (218) 226-4157 email: <>
world wide web: <>