Dimas calls for GM maize ban in Europe (25/10/2007)

2.Transgenic crops may hurt aquatic ecosystems


Friends of the Earth Europe Greenpeace
For immediate release: Thursday 25th October 2007

Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace have today welcomed the news that EU Environment Commissioner Dimas is for the first time proposing to ban two types of genetically modified (GM) maize because of the risks they pose to the environment. The green groups urge the whole of the European Commission to put environmental safety first and support the proposed ban.[1]

The two GM maize varieties (Syngenta's Bt11 and Pioneer/Dow's 1507) are engineered to produce a toxin (commonly called Bt) that is poisonous to certain insect pests. However, scientific studies show that these GM maize are toxic to certain butterfly species and may also affect other beneficial insects and have long term negative effects on soil health.

The proposal is apparently based on clear scientific evidence proving that the cultivation of these two GM crops has the potential to cause environmental harm. Commissioners Mandelson (Trade), Verheugen (Industry) and Fischer Boel (Agriculture) are among a small group of Commissioners that are expected to oppose the proposal and the application of the precautionary principle to this case.

Several scientists have recently published studies showing that the effects of GM Bt maize are far from predictable and that their potential risk is greater then previously thought. These studies demonstrate that the current EU risk assessment procedure is not able to evaluate the risks posed by GM Bt crops.[2]

An announcement is expected shortly as to whether France will also ban a Bt maize on similar environmental grounds.

In addition, during the World Trade Organisation dispute over GM products, the EU had already argued that Bt crops should not be currently grown because of the incomplete knowledge about their long-term environmental impact. [3]

Friends of the Earth Europe's GMO campaigner, Adrian Bebb said: 'This is a major blow to the GM industry. For the first time there is a European Commission proposal that GM crops should not be approved in Europe - and crucially this relates to two maize varieties for commercial growing. The Commission has raised serious concerns about the environmental impact of growing these crops.'

Greenpeace GMO Policy Director, Marco Contiero said: 'The Commission has no other option than to reject the authorisation of these GM crops if it intends to comply with EU provisions on risk assessment and the precautionary principle. If, on the other hand, it authorises the cultivation of these crops, caving in to pressure from Commissioners with a pro-GMO agenda, it would be bluntly violating EU law and new scientific findings.'


For more information, please contact:

Adrian Bebb: Friends of the Earth +49 8025 99 91 51 mobile +49 1609 490 1163 Marco Contiero: Greenpeace EU Unit, Policy Director GMOs +32 2 274 1906 mobile +32477777034


[1] See http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSBRU00606620071025

[2] For example:

* Recent research shows that GM crops producing Bt toxins could seriously affect aquatic ecosystems, since pollen and agricultural wastes from Bt maize enter streams where they may become toxic to aquatic life. This toxicity pathway for Bt toxins has not been considered previously

* The level of Bt toxin produced by one of these GM varieties varies strongly between different locations and between plants on the same field. The reasons for these differences are not known. This raises serious questions about the current capacity to assess the impact of Bt toxins on the environment.

* Unexpectedly, another recent study found that one type of GM Bt maize has significant higher amino acid levels compared to its non-GM counterpart, which made it much more susceptible to aphid infestation. Again this is another demonstration that Bt maize is subject to unexpected and unpredictable negative effects.

(All references to the studies are available from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace)

[3] European Communities - Measures affecting the approval and marketing of biotech products (DS291, DS292, DS293). Comments by the European Communities on the scientific and technical advice to the panel. 28 January 2005. See Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace summary:


2.Transgenic crops may hurt aquatic ecosystems
Science News
– October 24 2007 http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2007/oct/science/rc_btcorn.html

*Agricultural waste from genetically modified corn in U.S. streams is found to impair aquatic insect growth.

The U.S EPA declared in 1996 that transgenic Bt corn is unlikely to harm aquatic organisms. The corn contains a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which makes a toxin that kills pests, and the agency had tested the corn's impact on water fleas-organisms not closely related to the insects that Bt targets. Now, a new study published October 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. shows that the Bt toxin enters streams adjacent to cornfields and impedes the growth of caddis flies-a group of aquatic insects very closely related to the crop's pests. The study sheds new light on the potential environmental impacts of transgenic crops.

Bt corn targets the European corn borer and other closely related pest species and is a popular choice among farmers throughout the U.S. To evaluate its impacts on aquatic ecosystems, Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University and colleagues examined the transport of crop litter—leaves, pollen, and cobs—in 12 streams near a heavily farmed region of Indiana. They found litter washing into streams, suggesting a pathway for Bt toxin to reach the water.

The streams were full of leaf-shredding and filter-feeding caddis flies that thrive on such agricultural wastes. When fed crop litter in the lab, these insects grew only half as much as those on a toxin-free diet. In addition, very high doses of pollen in the water were shown to kill as many as 43% of the insects.

'We have to be aware that there could be unexpected impacts from the use of transgenic crops,' says study coauthor Todd Royer of Indiana University. This study has implications for the future of such crops, he adds. 'As we go forward and develop new transgenic crops, I'd like to see the testing process use more relevant organisms, particularly for the aquatic environment.'

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