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27/09/2016

EU ministers ask Commission to withdraw GMO proposal in open letter

Agriculture & Food

EU ministers ask Commission to withdraw GMO proposal in open letter

Maize.jpg

Twelve EU ministers have sent an open letter to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, pressuring the Commission to withdraw its proposal to approve the genetically modified maize 'Pioneer 1507'.

The letter was signed by the ministers of Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia and Malta and sent to the Commission following a discussion on the GM crop during the General Affairs Council on Tuesday (11 February).

The GM crop ‘Pioneer 1507’ has been developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical. The EU has only approved two other GM crops for commercial cultivation, though they are widely grown in other countries, for example the United States.

On Tuesday, 19 member states objected to the Commission proposal in an EU Council vote, while five countries (Estonia, Finland, Spain, Sweden and the UK) voted in favour and four (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and Portugal) abstained.

In the open letter, the ministers write that an overwhelming majority of stakeholders, including the European Parliament and member states, have repeatedly opposed the proposal and therefore, the Commission should remember its 1999 pledge regarding not going against predominant majorities in such cases.

"We are convinced that the Commission cannot ignore the legal, political and scientific concerns voiced by so many member states and the general political landscape. We are therefore confident that, by considering the horizontal impact of the issue, the Commission will withdraw the proposal," they wrote.

Under EU rules, a failure by member states to decide paves the way for automatic approval by the Commission.

On Wednesday (12 February), the Parliament's Green group also threatened to table a motion of censure against the European Commission.

Background

In the EU only two GM crops are approved for commercial cultivation: insect resistant maize, and potatoes with modified starch for industrial use.

Of the total area of GM maize grown in the EU in 2012 (129,000 hectares) one country, Spain, contributed more than 90%.

To date, seven EU countries have introduced national "safeguard" bans on growing Monsanto's MON 810 insect-resistant maize: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg.

Further Reading