New Europe blocks US GM food import / Monsanto's GM rape causes concern (16/6/2004)

1. New Europe blocks US GM food import
2.GM rape causes concern

1. New Europe blocks US GM food import
Confidential study casts doubt on GM food safety
Friends of the Earth Europe, Press release
For immediate release


For: 43 votes (Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Netherlands, Latvia, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden)

Against: 57 votes (Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, UK)

Abstentions: 24 votes (Germany, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia)

Brussels, 16 June 2004 ­ European Member states have today blocked the approval of a genetically modified (GM) food from the biotech giant Monsanto. The twenty five member states of Europe, voting together for the first time on a GM food, failed to support the application to import Monsanto’s GM oilseed rape into Europe.

Remarkably 6 new EU member states voted against Monsanto's oilseed rape. The application will now go back to the European Commission who must decide whether to push for a vote by Ministers or not.

The GM oilseed rape, called GT73, has been modified to resist the company's own chemical herbicide. The vote was the first test for the newly expanded EU following the European Commission's decision last month to force through the first GM food in over 5 years (1). The result will be closely watched by the US Government who have started a trade dispute in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). US officials have recently stated that "the approval of a single product does not affect our WTO challenge, [the lifting of the moratorium] does not indicate there is a consistently functioning approval process". (2)

In the run up to today's vote Friends of the Earth revealed that:

- A Monsanto feeding study on rats that was hidden from the public showed that rats fed the GM oilseed rape had a 15 % increase in liver weights. The UK Governments scientific advisors, usually known for their pro-GM stance, have demanded 'a satisfactory explanation for this potentially adverse response observed in the rat feeding study'.(3)

- Monsanto has failed to satisfy some member states over the possibility that the imported oilseed rape seeds will escape into the environment (through spillage during transport for example) and create feral populations. The UK authorities have repeatedly called on Monsanto to produce an adequate monitoring plan and an emergency plan should it occur. (3)

Geert Ritsema, GMO Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

"This is an important result for New Europe. This vote shows that the US cannot count on the new member states to follow their policies in the area of genetically modified food. Member States have put the safety of European citizens and their environment before the financial interests of biotech giants like Monsanto and their friends in the White House. The European Commission should now follow suit and reject GM foods until their safety can be proven."


1. On 19th May the European Commission approved the import of a GM sweet corn after sufficient Member States failed to support it. This was the first new product authorised in Europe since 1998.

2. Statement by US trade spokesperson Christopher Padilla, New York Times, 15 May 2004, 'Europeans Appear Ready To Approve A Biotech Corn'

3. Advisory Committee on Release to the Environment (ACRE), http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/advice/pdf/acre_advice36.pdf


Geert Ritsema, Friends of the Earth Europe ­ mobile +31 (0)6 290 05 908 Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe ­ mobile +49 (0)1609 490 1163

2.GM rape causes concern
Farmers Weekly interactive, 15 June 2004
By Farmers Weekly staff

EU OFFICIALS will on Wednesday (June 16) decide the fate of a GM oilseed rape that has caused concern with UK government GM advisors.

The GM rape variety has been given the all-clear by the EU GM food safety body, but the UK's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment has expressed concern.

All the enlarged EU's member states will take part in deciding whether to approve the rape for processing and feed. The UK will be represented by DEFRA officials.

The Monsanto oilseed rape, called GT73, has been modified to resist the company's own herbicide.

In September last year, ACRE expressed concern in regard of a confidential Monsanto feeding study on rats which showed that those fed the GM oilseed rape had a 15%increase in liver weights.

ACRE declared itself "not satisfied" with Monsanto's explanation that the increased liver weight in rats fed GT73 compared with controls was due to higher glucosinolate content levels in the test material.

"A satisfactory explanation for this potentially adverse response observed in the rat feeding study is required," ACRE reported.

The UK advisory body also stated its concerns regarding potential seed spill and argued that "the post market monitoring plan should include active monitoring for spillage of GT73 seed during import, transportation and processing and include tests for the establishment of feral populations of GT73 oilseed rape."

The plan should also include appropriate emergency plans should such populations be identified, ACRE said.

Clare Oxborrow, Friends of the Earth's GM-Free Britain campaigner, said: "The UK must reject this unsafe and unwanted GM food.

"Its scientific advisors have raised serious concerns about the safety and environmental impact of this product."

"The Government must stand up for British public and environment and vote against this GM oil seed rape."

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