Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The European Commission started GMO liberalisation

euinside, March 3, 2010

While in Bulgaria the ruling party and the government are applying all existing tools to pass a more liberal regime for GMO usage in the country, the European Commission announced that it was preparing a proposal member states to be able to have bigger choice in deciding whether to cultivate GMO or not. The proposal is expected to be ready by the summer.

Separately, the Commission has approved cultivation of the genetically modified potatoes Amflora for industrial use, as well as its by-product - starch - for feed. With this the EU executive body's decisions do not end - approved for placement on the European market have been also three types of GMO maize - for consumption and feed, but not for cultivation. The three types are developed by the GMO giant Monsanto - MON863xMON810, MON863xNK603, MON863xMON810xNK603. These double names of the products are due to the combination of already allowed genetic modifications.

Amflora potatoes will be used for the production of starch which is applicable in the production of paper. According to the Commission, its decision includes strict requirements that guarantee that this type of potatoes will not remain in the fields after harvest as well as that they will not infect the environment.

The attempts to permit cultivation of this type potatoes dates back in 2003. The new European Commissioner for Health and Consumers' Policy John Dalli said, after the Commission announced its decision, that all scientific issues, "particularly those concerning safety, had been fully addressed. Any delay would have simply been unjustified". He added that the European Foods Safety Authority made a series of favourable safety assessments, upon which the Commission based its decisions.

Producer of Amflora is the German company BASF. It plans commercial cultivation of the product in the Czech Republic and Germany. This will probably happen in April because then the cultivation season starts. BASF already has agreements for commercial cultivation in the Netherlands and Sweden.

Aside from the proposal the Commission will have to prepare by the summer, the Commissioner John Dalli himself will have to find a way how to create a Community Authorization system which will in the same time allow member states to decide whether or not they wish to cultivate GM crops on their territory.The system must be based on scientific data, the Commission's recommendations state.

The group of the Greens in the European parliament expressed frustration from the speed with which the new Commissioner got acquainted with the issue and started supporting the interests of the industry. "His decision to authorise the Amflora potato variety flies in the face of the 70% of consumers who are against GM food, as well as the anti-GM position of the European Parliament", the German Green MEP Martin Häusling commented. He is a member of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee.

He added that there were serious concerns about an Amflora gene that is resistant to antibiotics, including one recognised by the World Health Organisation and others essential to medicine, for example in the treatment of tuberculosis. Serious doubts remain on possible consequences for human health and the environment, the Greens in the European Parliament warned. In its decision the Commission states that according to Directive 2001/18, member states and the Commission must ensure that GMO which contain genes expressing resistance to antibiotics in use for medical or veterinary treatment, are taken into particular consideration when carrying out an environmental risk assessment.