Brussels, September 18th 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has called on the European Commission to respect EU member states' wishes and refuse authorisation of a genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape. At an Agriculture Council meeting today, only a small minority of EU Farm Ministers voted in favour of importing the GM oilseed rape into the EU.
Helen Holder, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said, "Most member states are not happy for this genetically modified oilseed rape to be allowed into the EU. The European Commission must listen to these national concerns and refuse to authorise the crop."
Under EU decision-making rules, the European Commission makes the final decision whether the GM crop will be authorised. Friends of the Earth Europe has expressed concern because in previous cases, the pro-biotech Commission has systematically authorised genetically modified organisms (GMOs) regardless of the general voting pattern by national Ministers.
The oilseed rape in question is genetically modified to be tolerant to herbicides. It is produced by the multinational Bayer - the company at the centre of the recent GM rice contamination scandal.
Genetically modified oilseed rape has been surrounded by controversy in the past. In Japan, there have been several cases of imported GM oilseed rape growing wild around port areas. It is suspected that seeds were spilled during unloading and transportation and then sprouted. In another incident, conventional oilseed rape in Australia was found to be contaminated with a GM variant.
"There is a risk that oilseed rape will sprout up wherever seeds are spilled during transit. Even if we only imported the herbicide-resistant GM oilseed rape, it could end up growing on EU soil and then crossing with related native species. We would then be faced with weeds that have a resistance to herbicides." Ms Holder added.
Oilseed rape is a member of the cabbage family, which includes hundreds of different species commonly found in Europe. EU funded research has found that oilseed rape can potentially cross with a variety of wild relatives. UK government research reported in 2005 on oilseed rape "superweed" - the result of GM oilseed rape cross breeding with a common weed, called charlock.
In a separate GMO meeting today, representatives from member states did not support a Commission proposal to force Hungary to lift its ban on Monsanto's MON810 maize.  Although the maize is approved by the EU, Hungary prohibited the use, sale, production and import of Monsanto's MON810 maize seeds in January 2005, due to safety concerns. The Commission will now put the vote to EU member states at an upcoming Council meeting.
Helen Holder, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe: "It is outrageous that the European Commission should bully Hungary into dropping its ban of a genetically modified maize. This maize is designed to produce a toxin, which may well have detrimental effects on the environment. Hungary is well within its rights to act with caution and ban it at this stage."
 The application concerns oilseed rape lines Ms8, Rf3 and Ms8xRf3. Two out of three of these lines are fertile; therefore contamination by pollen is possible.
The application concerns import of oilseed rape products including kernels (seeds), for use in animal feed. The same oilseed rape is already authorized for oil (1829/2003). The oil then can be used for human consumption or animal feed material.
Results of the vote in the Agriculture Council meeting, Sept 18th:
For import of GM OSR: Portugal, Germany, Finland, UK, Netherlands, Belgium
Against import of GM OSR: France, Slovenia, Austria, Estonia, Malta, Latvia, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Luxembourg
Abstention: Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ireland
 For example, in August 2005, the European Commission approved the import of a controversial genetically modified (GM) maize, MON863, for use as animal feed, even though the majority of member states had either abstained or voted against import.
 Incidences of oilseed rape growth around Japanese ports
 Incidence of oilseed rape contamination in Australia
 The result of the vote was a simple majority against the Commission's proposal to lift the ban, but there was no qualified majority.