Europe not hungry for GM potatoes

16 July 2007

EU Agriculture Council rejects latest attempt to grow GMOs in Europe

16 July, Brussels - Friends of the Earth Europe has welcomed EU member states' rejection of the latest application to grow GMOs in Europe, as the EU Agriculture Council today failed to approve the commercial growing of a genetically modified potato. There have now been no new GMOs grown in the EU for ten years.

Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said:
"Too few EU member states support growing genetically modified crops, and now yet another has been refused authorisation. National governments recognised the safety risks of growing this GM potato, as they have with previous applications. Now the decision is in the hands of the European Commission and we urge it to reject it too."

Today's vote was on an application to grow the genetically modified potato for use in industrial processes like making paper. The producer - German chemicals giant BASF - has also applied for approval to use the same potato in food and animal feed and acknowledges that contamination of the food chain is possible.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave the GM potato the green light, but has been criticized for overlooking several important health and environmental risks:

  • Antibiotic resistance marker gene: the potato contains a gene which can convey resistance to antibiotics. Under EU law, genes of this kind should have been phased out by the end of 2004. EFSA acknowledges that the cultivation of this potato could lead to antibiotic resistance, yet argued that this did not pose a "relevant" risk to human health or to the environment.
  • The risk assessment, required under EU law, fails to fulfil legal requirements. Basic information on the health and environmental safety of the GM potato is missing; in particular there is only an analysis of effects of surrounding wildlife on the potato, rather than looking at the impact of the GM potato on the environment.
  • Effects on health have not been sufficiently investigated. A number of irregularities, including toxicological differences that could have serious implications for food safety, have simply not been probed either by BASF or by EFSA
  • BASF admits that food contamination is likely: the potato has been genetically modified by the chemical giant BASF to increase its amylopectin content, which is used to produce starch. Although it is not intended to enter the food chain, BASF have issued a separate application for use in human food and animal feed, stating that "it cannot be excluded that amylopectin potato.. may be used as or may be present in food" [2].

* The risk of contaminating future crops is ignored. As they grow underground, it is virtually impossible to harvest all potatoes from a crop. Potatoes therefore grow back the following years and future crops could be contaminated with the genetically modified variant.

"No new GMOs have been grown in the European Union for 10 years now and research show that GMOs actually stimulate the economy less than green farming measures. It is time to accept that there is simply no market for genetically modified crops."

"The big GMO companies claim that using genetically modified potatoes in industrial processes is an environmentally-friendly option, but this is absurd considering the associated health and environmental risks," Ms Holder added.



[1] Application for cultivation of Amylopectin Potato Event EH92-527-1 according to Directive
[2] Application for Amylopectin Potato Event EH92-527-1 according to Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003, BASF Plant Sciences.


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