Seventeen GM varieties approved but coexistence decision postponed

The Commission’s decision to authorise GM
maize seeds for marketing and cultivation across the EU has been
criticised by environmentalists. The controversial issue of
coexistence has been postponed.

For the first time since the end of the unofficial moratorium on
GMOs (see  EURACTIV 19 May 2004), the Commission has authorised
genetically modified maize seeds for commercial use across the
EU. 

The Commission’s decision of 8 September 2004 concerns the
approval of 17 different strains of Monsanto’s 810 maize for
cultivation in the EU. The parent maize, which was modified to
resist certain insects, was approved for cultivation in the EU just
before Member States started blocking the authorisation of new GMOs
in 1998. 

The GM seeds in question had already been authorised in Spain
and France and the Commission was thus obliged to extend the
approval to EU level. The maize varieties can now be marketed in
the entire EU. 

“The maize has been thoroughly assessed to be safe for human
health and environment,” said David Byrne, Commissioner for Health
and Consumer Protection. “It has been grown in Spain for years
without any known problems. It will be clearly labelled as GM maize
to allow farmers a choice.” 

Environmentalists, however, are not happy with the Commission’s
decision. “The proposals […] will lead to the widespread
contamination of Europe’s food, farming and environment and take
away consumers ability to avoid GM,” said Geert Ritsema of Friends
of the Earth. 

In a separate development, Commission President Romano Prodi
decided to take the controversial new proposal on coexistence off
the Commission’s agenda on 8 September. The Commission is known to
be divided over the draft text, which allegedly foresees a
threshold of 0.3 per cent for the presence of GMOs in conventional
seeds. “The GMO discussion was postponed as the information
available on the economic impact of such legislation was deemed
insufficient. The Commission is not likely to return to this issue
in the remaining months of its term,” a Commission spokesperson
said. 

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