GeneWatch PR: EU Commission Gives into US Pressure on GM maize

For immediate release: 19th May 2004

GeneWatch UK repsonse to the Decision on GM Maize.

Today, the EU Commission bowed to pressure from the USA, when it authorised the import of Syngenta's GM maize line BT11(1) for food and animal feed in the European Union. This maize can now be used as whole sweet corn either fresh or (more likely) as tinned sweet corn. This is the first authorisation of a GM plant or food in the EU since 1998.

Since 1998, there has been a de-facto moratorium on the commercialisation of GM crops. The EU has updated its laws to reflect better concerns of the public, scientists and some Member State Governments surrounding GM crops and food. However, this approval was given under the previous rules. The EU is currently implementing new regulations covering GM food safety (2) which became law on 19th April 2004, but have not yet been fully implemented.

On 26th April 2004, a meeting of the EU's Council of Ministers discussed the application to market Bt11 maize under the old Novel food Regulations (258/97/EC), but it failed to gain sufficient support from the Ministers. The USA, Canada and Argentina have submitted a complaint to the WTO abut the EU's de-facto moratorium on GM crops and food. They have claimed that the period of time taken in agreeing new EU laws contravenes trade rules because there has been an "undue delay".

"It is deeply worrying that this maize could have been pushed through under old regulations when it can be only a matter of weeks before the new regulations are implemented" said Becky Price, a researcher at GeneWatch UK. "The unelected European Commission have bowed to pressure from US, despite having to overrule the elected Member State Governments. This is likely to fuel the GM fire, not put it out".

Today, David Byrne announced the EU Commission had over ruled the Council of Ministers and that BT11 had been give food safety clearance. His statement talked about the 'stringent' system the EU had put in place over the last 4 years to regulate GM plants but did not mention that this maize had just been passed under old regulations even though new laws are now technically in place.

A report commissioned by the Austrian Government(4) previously questioned the adequacy of the Bt11 application because:

  • there was no toxicological testing with the whole plant
  • there were no tests on the long terms effects of eating the novel protein
  • the test for allergic reactions are insufficient and many assumptions argued by Syngenta are false
  • the safety of Bt 11 is based on theoretical argument rather than evidence.

Further Details:

Please contact Becky Price on 01298 871898 (office) or 07949 396328 (mobile)

Notes for Editors:

  1. The Bt11 maize line first applied for marketing consent in 1996, it was granted a license for import by the UK government in June 1998. The maize contains a Bt insect resistant gene and a glufosinate ammonium herbicide tolerance gene. Until today it could be imported into the EU and used not used for human food.
  2. Regulation (EC) No.1829/2003 on Genetically modified food and feed.
  3. EU Commission Press Release: 19/05/2004|0|RAPID&lg=en&display=
  4. The Report of the Austrian Government can be found at:

↑ Top