EU ministers block Monsanto's GM rape (20/12/2004)

"The official UK government advisors on GM foods and feeds ­ ACRE and ACAF (3) - have said that they are not satisfied with the explanation that Monsanto has provided for the observed increased liver weight in rats fed GT73"

Results have come out very late but here they are. Interesting to note that opposition is now higher then in June when the member states first voted.

Friends of the Earth Europe
Press release
For immediate release

Voting results :

For: SK, SE, FR, PT, FI, NL. (78 votes)
Against: IT, GR, DK, PO, MT, BE, HU, LT, LV, CY, AT, EE et LU. (135 votes)
Abstention: IE, SI, ES, DE, CZ et UK. (108 votes)

Brussels, 20 December 2004 ­ A majority of EU Environment Ministers have today blocked the approval of a genetically modified (GM) food from the biotech giant Monsanto. The European Commission asked Ministers to take a decision after Member State experts failed to reach an agreement in June.(1)

The application was for the import of a GM oilseed rape, called GT73, that has been modified to resist Monsanto's own chemical herbicide. The application was supported by a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Two weeks ago Friends of the Earth published a detailed report about the EFSA, criticising the organisation for its constant position in favour of the biotechnology industry.(2) Today's vote not only indicates that the member states do not fully support the EFSA opinions, but also that Europe continues to remain deeply divided over the safety of genetically modified food. In the case of GT73, safety concerns centre around two issues:

· The food and feed safety of GT73 is still not resolved.

The official UK government advisors on GM foods and feeds ­ ACRE and ACAF (3) - have said that they are not satisfied with the explanation that Monsanto has provided for the observed increased liver weight in rats fed GT73. They are not convinced by EFSA's assurance that GT 73 ''is as safe as conventional oilseed rape for humans and animals, and in the context of the proposed uses, for the environment.'' ACAF says it can only draw such conclusion "on receipt of satisfactory data from a further rat-feeding study using 15 per cent. oilseed rape meal." (4)

· Illegal seed spills of GT 73 into the environment are likely to happen. Whilst the application is for the import of GT73 grain for food/feed purposes, seeds are likely to escape and grow into the EU environment, e.g. though spillage during processing and transport. Not only would such seeds spills be illegal but they could also lead to negative effects on biodiversity in Europe.

Since the Ministers did not reach the qualified majority of 232 votes to stop Monsanto's application completely, it is now up to the European
Commission to take the final decision about the approval of GT 73. Friends of the Earth Europe urges the Commission to follow the majority of the European Environment Ministers.

Geert Ritsema, GMO coordinator for Friends of the Earth said:

"Ignoring the opinion of 19 Environment Ministers would be a bad starting point for the new Commission. There is clearly a big difference in opinion between the member states and the Commission and its food safety authority. Genetically modified foods will haunt the new Commission for its whole term unless it gets to grasps with the issue and the public concerns surrounding it."

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

1. The outcome of the vote on GT 73 by the Regulatory Committee on 16 June was as follows: For: Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France,
Netherlands. Latvia, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden
Against: Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, UK
Abstentions: Germany, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia
3. ACRE=Advisory Committee on releases to the environment. ACAF= Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs
4. Statement by Mr. Elliot Morley, UK Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment. In minutes of the UK's European Standing Committee A,
Tuesday 2 November 2004


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