No further cultivation can be allowed based on the Monsanto application and EFSA risk assessment, as they are based on outdated assumptions, says Testbiotech
For background to this story, see:
“Spanish government does not respond to the risk of massive transgenic contamination” [http://testbiotech.org/en/node/1676]
EU member states to debate the authorisation of GM maize for cultivation
Testbiotech, 5 June 2016
[no web link at time of publication]
On 8 July 2016, EU member states will discuss whether or not to approve genetically engineered maize 1507 and Bt11 for cultivation and the re-authorisation of GM maize Mon810. All three maize events are producing insecticidal Bt toxins.
However, in the light of new evidence, it has to be concluded that authorisation for the cultivation of genetically engineered maize cannot be issued: As the EU Commission admitted just recently, there is an outbreak of teosinte in Spain.
This has huge legal, economic and ecological consequences: In 1998, when the cultivation of MON810 was allowed in the EU for the first time, the precondition was that there were no wild relatives to which the transgenes could spread. However, this circumstance changed in 2009 when teosinte was found to be growing in Spanish maize fields as a new alien species. Since then, no effective measures could be identified to prevent teosinte from spreading further. Teosinte is a wild relative of maize and native to Mexico. Crossings between teosinte and maize can enable transgenes from genetically engineered maize to spread and persist in the environment. Once gene flow has occurred it can be very difficult and very costly to remove the plants and control the damage in the environment and for farmers.
Consequently, no further cultivation can be allowed based on the Monsanto application and EFSA risk assessment. Both are based on the assumption that there are no wild relatives of maize that could allow the transgenes to spread and persist in the environment. It should be taken into consideration that Spain is the most relevant region for the cultivation of genetically engineered maize in the EU, and that the teosinte might also cross the borders to Portugal or the south of France. Indeed, teosinte has reportedly been found in France.
There are further substantial gaps in the risk assessment of these transgenic maize events, including:
1. Lack of scientific scrutiny and empirical investigations to assess the impacts on non-target species. See review: Hilbeck A. & Otto M. (2015) Specificity and Combinatorial Effects of Bacillus Thuringiensis Cry Toxins in the Context of GMO Environmental Risk Assessment, Frontiers in Environmental Science, 3, Article 71, http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fenvs.2015.00071/full.
2. No investigation of gene expression levels under stress conditions such as the climate change. See: Trtikova, M., Wikmark, O.G., Zemp, N., Widmer, A., Hilbeck, A. (2015) Transgene expression and Bt protein content in transgenic Bt maize (MON810) under optimal and stressful environmental conditions, PLOS one: e0123011. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0123011
3. No assessment of the accumulated and combined effects that can emerge from combined cultivation or consumption of the three events. For example, a higher concentration of Bt toxins in food and feed as a result of combined consumption might enhance the likelihood of immune reactions to the Bt toxins. See review: Rubio-Infante N. & Moreno-Fierros L. (2015) An overview of the safety and biological effects of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry toxins in mammals, J. Appl. Toxicol., 36(5): 630-648. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jat.3252/abstract
4. No assessment of interactions with other stressors such as glyphosate, that are known to enhance the toxicity of Bt toxins. See: Bøhn, T., Rover, C.M., Semenchuk, P.R. (2016) Daphnia magna negatively affected by chronic exposure to purified Cry-toxins, Food and Chemical Toxicology, 91: 130-140. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691516300722
Therefore, Testbiotech urges the EU Member States and the EU Commission to reject authorisation of the three genetically engineered maize events.