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Public let down by EU's new consumer chief

1.Public let down by EU's new consumer chief
2.EC forces through "bad decision" on GM industrial potato and ignores health risks
 
EXTRACTS: The potato was given official approval by the European Food Safety Authority but for the first time the judgment of the scientific body wasn't unanimous. Two EFSA scientists stated that the possibility of a transfer of antibiotic resistant genes to bacteria within the gastro-intestinal-tract cannot be predicted.
 
Two other conventional potato varieties already on the market have the same characteristics as Amflora... The existence of these non-GM alternatives means that there is no reason for farmers to have to cultivate Amflora for the European starch industry and no need to introduce the risk of spreading antibiotic resistance. (item 1)
 
The pulp remaining after the starch has been extracted will be allowed fed to animals following a parallel decision also announced by the Commission today. Products produced from livestock fed the GM potato pulp will not be required to be labelled under EU traceability and labelling laws. There is already widespread  support for labelling [2] and this is another example of how EC is ignoring public opinion and denying choice. (item 2)
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1.EUROPEAN COMMISSION GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO GENETICALLY MODIFIED POTATOES
Public let down by EU's new consumer chief, says Friends of the Earth Europe
 
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH EUROPE MEDIA STATEMENT
For immediate release: Tuesday March 2 2010
 
Brussels, March 2 - A decision announced today by Europe's new health and consumer commissioner, John Dalli, to give the go ahead for genetically modified potatoes to be grown in Europe, has been condemned by Friends of the Earth Europe.
 
The 'Amflora' potato, designed to produce starch for industrial purposes by Germany´s chemical giant BASF, carries a controversial antibiotic resistant gene which it cannot be guaranteed will not enter the food chain.
 
Heike Moldenhauer, GMO spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This is a bad day for European citizens and the environment. The new Commissioner whose job is to protect consumers has in one of his first decisions ignored public opinion and safety concerns to please the world's biggest chemical company. This decision puts profit before people or the environment and will do little to increase public confidence in the Brussels bureaucracy.
 
"There are clear health concerns surrounding this GM potato. The antibiotics affected by Amflora are vital tools against illness and despite growing resistance to these life saving drugs, industry has added them to potatoes with no guarantees that they will not get into the food chain. This is nothing less then a crass decision that puts the public at risk."
 
Heike Moldenhauer continued: "With this decision Commissioner Dalli has not only snubbed European citizens, the vast majority of who reject GMOs, he has snubbed member states as well. The new Commission promised to let national governments decide on whether to grow GM crops on their own territory but at the first possible opportunity they have broken this promise. Dalli has introduced himself as a Commissioner who can't be trusted."
 
Amflora is highly controversial mainly due to its antibiotic resistant gene. The potato was given official approval by the European Food Safety Authority but for the first time the judgment of the scientific body wasn't unanimous. Two EFSA scientists stated that the possibility of a transfer of antibiotic resistant genes to bacteria within the gastro-intestinal-tract cannot be predicted.
 
Two other conventional potato varieties already on the market have the same characteristics as Amflora one developed by German plant breeder Europlant, the other by Dutch company Avebe. The existence of these non-GM alternatives means that there is no reason for farmers to have to cultivate Amflora for the European starch industry and no need to introduce the risk of spreading antibiotic resistance.
 
For more information please contact:
 Heike Moldenhauer, Friends of the Earth Germany/BUND, 0049 (0) 30 275 86
  456, mobile: 0049 30 275 86 456, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Francesca Gater, communications officer for Friends of the Earth Europe,
+32 2893 1010, +32 485 930515, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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2.EC forces through "bad decision" on GM industrial potato and ignores health risks
GM Freeze, 2 March 2010
 
The announcement by the EC [1] that they have approved BASF's GM starch altered potato for cultivation to produce starch to be used by industry has been described as a "bad and ill informed decision" by GM Freeze.
 
The pulp remaining after the starch has been extracted will be allowed fed to animals following a parallel decision also announced by the Commission today. Products produced from livestock fed the GM potato pulp will not be required to be labelled under EU traceability and labelling laws. There is already widespread  support for labelling [2] and this is another example of how EC is ignoring public opinion and denying choice.
 
Several non-GM starch altered potatoes are already on the market demonstrating that there is no need for GM varieties. The most recent being the Emsland Group's announcement in September 2009 that it planned to start processing high amylopectin potatoes (starch altered) developed using classical breeding in their production plants in Kyritz and Cloppenburg last autumn [3].
 
The EC decision in controversial because it is based on advice from The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) regarding the use of antibiotic resistant marker (ARM) genes [4] which has been challenged by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). GM Freeze is also concerned about the overall testing of feed safety for instance the lack of attention to the presence of novel chemicals arising from genetic engineering events.
 
The EU policy is to avoid using ARMs for antibiotics which are used in human or veterinary medicine.
 
The ARM gene in these potatoes confers resistance to kanamycin. Although this is from a group of antibiotic resistant genes approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for use as markers in GM crops, the EMA has challenged EFSA's opinion based on the potential importance of this group of antibiotics in medicine [5]. The concern is that the ARMs genes could horizontally transfer to pathogenic bacterium in the guts of humans or animals this worsening the problem of antibiotic resistance in treating a range of infections.
 
Previously the application to grow the starch altered GM potatoes failed to reach the required qualified majority vote in the EU's Council of Ministers because of the concerns about the ARMs. This led the EC to seek further advice from EFSA and the EMA. EMA told the EC [5]:
 
"Not withstanding the EFSA opinion, aminoglycosides is a class of antibiotics that has become increasingly important in the prevention and treatment of serious invasive bacterial infections in humans. This is because gram-negative bacteria (and tuberculosis bacteria) are becoming resistant to other classes of antibiotics."
 
And
 
"That situation may change as new chemical entities similar to kanamycin and neomycin could be developed. New chemical entities similar to kanamycin and neomycin could have other properties in relation to, for example, absorption from the gastrointestinal tract and with regard to side-effects. They thus have the potential to become extremely important to treat otherwise multi-resistant gram-negative infections and Tuberculosis."
 
Potatoes for the production of industrial starch are grown on a quota system in the EU and the UK does not have any quota at the present time.
 
Controversially, the EC also forced through three consents to import GM maize for use in food and feed which had also failed to reach a qualified majority in the Council of Ministers. These GM maize varieties involved stacked genes (combining genes from two different GMOs in the same plant) and there is disagreement on how the safety of these should be assessed [6].
 
Commenting Pete Riley of GM freeze said:
 
"The approval of the GM potatoes is a bad and ill informed decision by the EC and shows that their interpretation of the precautionary principle is very far from what it should be. It flies in the face of sound advice on the risks of the particular anti-biotic resistant marker genes used by BASF. This gene could have been removed long ago but BASF decided not to do so. As a consequence, the gene will be entering the animal feed chain in Europe. If the gene transfers to harmful bacteria take place we will know who to blame. Gaps in the GM labelling regulations mean that EU consumers will not be able to tell if their meat or milk comes from stock fed on GM potato pulp when they make their purchases."
 
Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065
 
Notes
1. See http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/222&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
2. A Gkf/NOP poll in 1986 for GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth found 86% of people in the Uk wanted animal products from GM feed animals labelled
3. See Emsland Group Press Release http://web47.freisign.your-host.de/content.php?item=635&action=details&id=28&page=1&&NXTSTPID2=cc541efcd66f3a856496f512ba0a05e3&NXTSTPID2=1ec42f8e250fa4d87af028dcaac64aea
4. ARMs are not required in the commercial crop and are used by genetic engineers to make it easy to identify which plants have been successfully genetically modified during the very early development stages of the GM potatoes.
5. See www.emea.europa.eu/pdfs/human/opiniongen/5693707en.pdf
6.  Bundesminiterium Fur Gesundheit Familie und Jugend, 2007. Risk Assessment of “stacked events”. See http://www.bmgfj.gv.at/cms/site/attachments/7/7/0/CH0810/CMS1180523433481/cms1200659635294_internetversion_2_07stacked_events.pdf