European Commission gives green light to genetically modified potatoes

2 March 2010

Public let down by EU's new consumer chief, says Friends of the Earth Europe

Brussels, March 2 – A decision announced today by Europe's new health and consumer commissioner, John Dalli, to give the go ahead for genetically modified potatoes to be grown in Europe, has been condemned by Friends of the Earth Europe.

The 'Amflora' potato, designed to produce starch for industrial purposes by Germany´s chemical giant BASF, carries a controversial antibiotic resistant gene which it cannot be guaranteed will not enter the food chain.

Heike Moldenhauer, GMO spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This is a bad day for European citizens and the environment. The new Commissioner whose job is to protect consumers has in one of his first decisions ignored public opinion and safety concerns to please the world's biggest chemical company. This decision puts profit before people or the environment and will do little to increase public confidence in the Brussels bureaucracy.

"There are clear health concerns surrounding this GM potato. The antibiotics affected by Amflora are vital tools against illness and despite growing resistance to these life saving drugs, industry has added them to potatoes with no guarantees that they will not get into the food chain. This is nothing less then a crass decision that puts the public at risk.

Heike Moldenhauer continued: "With this decision Commissioner Dalli has not only snubbed European citizens, the vast majority of who reject GMOs, he has snubbed member states as well. The new Commission promised to let national governments decide on whether to grow GM crops on their own territory but at the first possible opportunity they have broken this promise. Dalli has introduced himself as a Commissioner who can't be trusted."

Amflora is highly controversial mainly due to its antibiotic resistant gene. The potato was given official approval by the European Food Safety Authority but for the first time the judgment of the scientific body wasn't unanimous. Two EFSA scientists stated that the possibility of a transfer of antibiotic resistant genes to bacteria within the gastro-intestinal-tract cannot be predicted.

Two other conventional potato varieties already on the market have the same characteristics as Amflora – one developed by German plant breeder Europlant, the other by Dutch company Avebe. The existence of these non-GM alternatives means that there is no reason for farmers to have to cultivate Amflora for the European starch industry and no need to introduce the risk of spreading antibiotic resistance.

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