EU's top maize producers reject genetic engineering; Greenpeace applauds action and calls for European Commission to ban GE maize
Greenpeace Media Release, 27 March 2008
International - Greenpeace welcomes the Romanian Government's landmark decision to ban genetically engineered (GE) maize, announced today. The move is particularly significant as GE maize is the only commercially cultivated GE crop permitted in Europe.
Mr Attila Korodi's, Minister of Environment and Durable Development, announcement banning Monsanto's GE maize MON 810, makes Europe's largest per hectare maize producer  GE-free. Romania is the seventh of Europe's leading maize producers to ban the growing of GE varieties, following France, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Greece and Poland.
'Romania's GE ban marks a seismic change. It sends a critical message that this dangerous technology will not be tolerated. It is vital the European Commission  protects all of Europe's farmers, consumers and environment by introducing an EU-wide ban against GE cultivation,' Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaign coordinator said.
Concerns over safety prompted the government to take action. Scientific studies show MON 810 maize is harmful to wildlife, soil and human health. Its inbuilt toxin which is designed to kill the cornborer, a pest considered insignificant in Romania and other parts of Europe, seeps into soil harming animals critical to soil health, such as earthworms, and other wildlife including butterflies, ants and spiders. Proof of its safety for human and animal health are inconclusive .
'The Romanian people overwhelmingly reject this unsafe, unnecessary and unsustainable technology . It is vital the ban is implemented as soon as possible, so natural crops can be safe from GE contamination before the sowing season starts,' said Gabriel Paun, GE Campaign Coordinator Greenpeace Romania.
Contamination of natural crops from GE cultivation is a serious problem. In 2007 alone, there were 39 new instances of crop contamination in 23 countries last year alone . Despite this, there is no international standard holding biotech companies to account for the damage and financial losses they cause.
Notes to Editor
1) Romania is the European Union's top maize producer in terms of hectares with about 3 million hectares cultivated annually. Some 300 hectares of MON 810 have been cultivated in Romania since 2007, representing only 0.01 per cent of Romania's total maize production.
2) In 1998, Monsanto was granted a 10-year licence by the European Commission to grow GE maize MON 810 throughout the EU. The licence is now coming up for renewal, creating an important opportunity for the Commission to withdraw permission for the cultivation MON 810 maize throughout the EU, which would be in line with the majority of maize growing countries in Union. MON 810 is the only GE crop allowed for cultivation throughout the EU.
3) A recent study by Professor Gilles Eric SÚralini, a French governmental advisor on GE from the University of Caen, found signs of toxicity in the internal organs of tested animals fed with GE.
In late 2007, EU Commissioner for Environment, Mr Stavros Dimas used similar studies to block the cultivation of two other GE maize varieties, similar to MON 810, in the EU. He also referred to new studies showing that the Bt toxin produced by GE maize has negative effects on aquatic ecosystems.
4) An opinion poll, conducted by Mercury research and commissioned by Greenpeace in the summer of 2007, showed that 67 per cent of Romanians do not want to eat GE food.
5) Greenpeace and GeneWatch UK's annual GM Contamination Register Report. Since 2005, the Register has recorded 216 contamination events in 57 countries since GE crops were first grown commercially on a large scale in 1996.
Beth Herzfeld, Greenpeace International, Media Officer, Tel: +44 (0) 7717 802 891 Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International, GE Campaign Coordinator, Tel: (0) +31 646 197 328 Gabriel PŃun, Greenpeace Romania, GE Campaign Coordinator, Tel: + 40 (0) 744351977