Press Notice from GM Free Cymru 26th November 2007
The Assembly Government has been urged to take decisive action to protect Wales from the threat of two GM maize varieties which could be grown here or introduced into food supplies. The two varieties are Bt11, produced by Syngenta, and line 1507, produced by Dow/ Pioneer. The companies have applied for full EC consent for growing, commercialization and use in human and animal feed.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended approval for the two varieties, but with opposition to GM crops growing across all of the states of the EU, Commissioner Stavros Dimas has, for the first time, said that he is minded to go against EFSA and refuse consent (1). In announcing his decisions he referred to "potential irreversible damage on the environment" and said that "the level of risk generated by the cultivation of this product for the environment is unacceptable." The Commissioner's spokesperson Barbara Helfferich said that the EU was within its rights to make decisions based on the "precautionary principle," even when scientists have found no definitive evidence proving products can cause harm. She added: "The commission has the authority to be a risk manager when it comes to the safety and science of genetically modified crops."
Since the Commission has to come to a consensus on the matter of approvals before taking a recommendation to the EU Council of Ministers, Mr Dimas will have to fight his corner against strongly pro-GM Commissioners like the UK's Peter Mandelson. But he is by no means isolated, and he has a broad base of support from at least 20 EU governments and from consumer groups and NGOs across Europe. It is believed that Mr Dimas has received over 100,000 letters of support from European citizens.
Today it was announced that the Scottish Government will write to Commissioner Dimas and express its support for his position (2). It is acting within its rights, since Scotland is one of the four UK "territorial competent authorities" in GM matters. Wales has the same rights (3), and last week GM Free Cymru wrote to Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones urging her to place on the record her support for Commissioner Dimas.
In his letter, spokesman Brian John said that it was high time that the Assembly Government threw off the yoke of Westminster in all matters relating to GM crops and foods. "Wales -- like Scotland -- has a strong anti-GM policy, and yet this has never been expressed in voting at the European level," he said. "Every time there is a vote in Brussels, the Westminster Government dismisses the opinions of its UK partners and votes for GM consents -- even where there are serious doubts on safety and environmental impacts. We have been warning the Assembly about the unique dangers of BT varieties for years, and there is a great deal of new scientific evidence accumulating to show that BT maize damages non-target insects, the microfauna in the soil, and even aquatic ecosystems (4). Thank goodness that Commissioner Dimas has at last recognized these dangers."
"We now call on the Assembly Government, as a matter of urgency, to write to Commissioner Dimas and support the refusal of consent on Bt11 and line 1507, citing new science and the precautionary principle as justification," said Dr John. "This may be the only opportunity that presents itself to the Assembly for a clear statement of intent in GM policy-making, and the people of Wales will have every right to feel betrayed if the Minister does nothing, and meekly follows the pro-GM Westminster line."
ENDS Contact: Brian John, GM Free Cymru Tel: 01239-820470
(1) EU officials propose ban on genetically modified corn seeds By James Kanter International Herald Tribune, November 21 2007 http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/11/21/business/GMO.php?page=2
(2) Holyrood bid to ban GM crops in Europe By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor MSP to back EU commissioner’s controversial stance http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.1857677.0.0.php
(3) The regulation of GM crops and foods in the UK is governed by a secret "Concordat" which was signed by the Assembly Government in December 2006. It has never been published in Wales, but it is here on the Scottish Government web site: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/04/GMConcordat It gives unprecedented powers to Westminster to make decisions on GM matters, even when its three UK partners disagree with its policies and voting intentions. In the view of GM Free Cymru this Concordat should be torn up as soon as possible.
(4) Maize BT11: http://www.agbios.com/dbase.php?action=ShowProd&data=BT11%20(X4334CBR, %20X4734CBR) Maize 1507 (Herculex): potentially much more harmful and unpredictable, with "stacked" GM characteristics for insect resistance and herbicide (GA) tolerance http://www.gmo-compass.org/pdf/regulation/maize/ 1507_maize_application_food.pdf http://www.eubusiness.com/Agri/foe.07-06-26/ We have abundant references which demonstrate the dangers of BT crops. In fact, even EFSA, in its assessment of BT11 and 1507, admits that non-target insects were badly harmed by Bt176 (now withdrawn) and are indeed also harmed by the other Bt varieties which have lower levels of CRY protein in pollen. http://www.efsa.eu.int/EFSA/Scientific_Opinion/ gmo_opinion_ej181_ej213_annex_en,2.pdf