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European Union Backs Austrian and Hungarian Bans on GM Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2009) Earlier this month, European Union environment ministers overwhelmingly rejected a European Commission proposal to force Austria and Hungary to lift their bans on the controversial cultivation of varieties of genetically modified (GM) corn. Over 20 member states voted against the Commission proposal. Hungary can maintain its ban on Monsanto’s GM maize MON810, and Austria on MON810 and Bayer’s T25.

“This is a victory for the environment, farmers and consumers, and a major embarrassment for the Commission. For the fourth time, EU governments have rejected a Commission proposal to lift national bans on GM crops. What part of ‘no’ does the Commission not understand?” said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU GMO policy director.

Austrian and Hungarian scientific authorities have recently supplied new evidence supporting their national bans showing that MON810 maize – the only GMO currently cultivated in the EU – is likely to have harmful environmental effects.

Helen Holder, European GMO campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe said, “The European Commission has once again failed to force countries to lift their national GMO bans. Today’s vote is a clear message that European countries will not be bullied into taking unsound decisions regarding their environment, their farming and their citizens’ health. The Commission must now abandon its unpopular proposals once and for all and get down to the real work of improving GMO risk assessments in the EU, as Ministers have requested.”

Under EU GMO laws, countries are allowed to ban individual GM crops for environmental and health reasons. There are a number of reasons why these bans should not be lifted:

*The effects of Monsanto’s genetically modified maize MON 810, which is engineered to produce a toxin to kill insects, are uncertain and controversial.

* European Environment Ministers concluded last December that GMO risk assessment in the EU is not fulfilling legal requirements, that long term impacts are not been assessed, and that crops such as those being voted on today should also be assessed under EU pesticide laws because of the toxin they release. The European Commission’s proposal to lift the bans completely disregarded this recent agreement.

* MON810 is currently being re-assessed at EU level as required under EU law. No national bans should be lifted under a full, independent and good quality review.

Beyond Pesticides believes the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of a herbicide resistant crop is short sighted and dangerous. Over 70% of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are altered to be herbicide-resistant. In the U.S., we continue to push for labeling as a means of identifying products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, seek to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of this technology, and generate support for sound ecological-based management systems. This technology should be subject to complete regulatory review, which is currently not the case.

For more information, see our GMO program page.


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