MEPs called on the Commission not to allow the genetically modified maize crop Pioneer 1507 on the EU market. This insect-resistant crop could be dangerous to harmless butterflies and moths, said a resolution approved on Thursday. We spoke to Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, a German member of the S&D group, who opposed approval along with other members of the environment committee. “Based on this proposal, we are clearly lacking evidence on the safety of this new GMO strain to have it on the EU markets."
Why do the MEPs oppose the market authorisation for this particular strain of GM maize? We have already authorised GM plants, so why is this one different?
Since the non-renewal of a couple of other authorisations in the mid-1990s, there is only one variety of maize - the MON 810 from Monsanto - which is currently authorised to be cultivated for commercial use in the EU. This one would be the second one.
In the case of maize 1507 from Pioneer, we have decided to object to this proposal for an authorisation because we were very surprised by the Commission attitude to take a positive decision which had been opposed by 12 member states (with only six Member States voting in favour of the authorisation).
The risk assessments from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) show that highly sensitive butterflies and moths may be at risk when exposed to maize 1507 pollen. Yet, Pioneer refused to present additional documents regarding monitoring and risk mitigating measures for these non-target species.
Lastly, the Commission took this decision of authorisation arguing that it had been condemned by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last September. However, the ECJ has only ruled that the Commission had failed to act. It has not prevented the Commission from presenting a new proposal recommending not to authorise maize 1507.
The request for cultivation was first made in 2001. Do you expect a final decision from the Council to be reached soon?
We cannot know when the decision of the Council will come. Yet, what I can say is that any new authorisation for GMO cultivation is an issue, as it is always a challenge for the Council to find a majority either in favour or against such a decision. This is the reason why requests for authorisation can remain a very long time without a final decision.
Should GMOs have a future in Europe?
Last July, Monsanto announced it will withdraw pending approval requests to grow new types of genetically modified crops in the EU, explaining that there was a lack of commercial prospects for cultivation. It is true that the regulatory environment is made difficult due to the fact that several member states are not in favour of new authorisation for cultivation. It must also been said that the lack of evidence provided by the industry on the safety of new GM crops does not help to dispel EU citizens’ recurring doubts on GMOs. This is why for the time being the majority (61%), of Europeans are opposed to the development of GM food in Europe (Eurobarometer of November 2010). They consider GMOs as not offering benefits, as unsafe, as inequitable and as worrying.
For more details and contacts, click on the link for the press release on the right.