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21st Jul 2019

Commission fails in third attempt to lift Austrian GMO ban

  • The commission failed to get GMO corn bans in Hungary and Austria lifted (Photo: European Commission)

European environment ministers on Wednesday (2 March) once again rejected the European Commission's efforts to have national bans on the cultivation of genetically modified corn in Austria and Hungary lifted.

It is the third time the commission has attempted to get ministers to tell Vienna to lift its ban on the growing of ‘MON 810' maize - produced by US-based Monsanto, and ‘T25' maize - produced by Germany's Bayer, and the second time the EU executive has tried to get Budapest's ban on the growing of the Monsanto corn lifted.

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The EU executive tried to lift Austria's ban on the two crops in June 2005 and December 2006. Hungary's ban was also unsuccessfully targeted in February 2007.

MON 810 is the only GMO crop allowed to be grown in the EU, but according to the bloc's GMO laws, countries can ban individual GM crops for environmental and health reasons. Cultivation of T25 however is not permitted.

Ministers from 22 member states rejected efforts regarding both T25 and MON810, a vote jubilantly described by France's ecology minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, as: "a wide qualified majority - without precedent for this subject."

"The Council confirms today, with an even stronger majority the votes it took in 2005, 2006 and 2007 on the same safeguard clauses, based on the same arguments," he said.

"[Environment ministers] considered national safeguard clauses to be based on a more rigorous evaluation than that which had led to the authorisation of GMOs at the European Union level on the basis of earlier legislation," he added.

Mr Borloo also said that the ministers reaffirmed their desire to see a beefed up evaluation of GMOs, taking into account territorial particularities and the crops' potential medium-to-long-term impacts.

Europa Bio, representing Europe's biotech industry "expressed its profound disappointment" at the decision, saying the move flies in the face of science.

"It is incomprehensible that some member states choose to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence as to the safety of these GM products and the commercial reality of their safe growth and consumption for more than a decade around the world," said says Nathalie Moll, a director with the group.

GMO opponents also claim to have the forces of science behind them, with Friends of the Earth, saying that peer-reviewed research has demonstrated negative effects on organisms that were never supposed to be targeted by the crops, on soil and on river ecosystems.

Helen Holder, European GMO campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe said:

"Today's vote is a clear message that European countries will not be bullied into taking unsound decisions regarding their environment, their farming and their citizens' health," said Helen Holder, a GMO campaigner with the NGO.

"The commission must now abandon its unpopular proposals once and for all and get down to the real work of improving GMO risk assessments in the EU, as ministers have requested," she added.

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