Agriculture: Latest report fails to shift Europe's GM fears
While European Union (EU) states have backed away from overturning national bans on genetically modified (GM) crops, an independent UK project report has shown that GM herbicide-tolerant crops will help farmers without harming wildlife.
The report on botanical and rotational implications of GM herbicide tolerance (Bright) is the fruition of a four-year project funded by the UK government using winter oilseed rape and sugar beet from Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience. Herbicide tolerant crops were grown in rotation with conventional crops at a number of UK sites, and the study found 'no detrimental impact on biodiversity or farming methods'.
According to the Agricultural Biotechnology Council's deputy chairman, Tony Combes: 'Bright illustrates that the flexibility allowed by GM crops will ensure that they can and will be grown in a manner that benefits the environment and farmers' bottom line . this report buries the myth that these two GM crops pose any new problems for farming or the environment'.
Meanwhile, specific bans on GM maize and oilseed rape crops in Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg will stay, despite a European proposal that these countries should lift the bans or face legal action. Environmentalists were delighted that the EU regulatory committee failed to reach a majority vote on the proposal, which will now be passed to the Council of Ministers to see if it can reach a majority decision.
The committee also failed to approve or reject a proposed new GM maize variety called MON 863 for EU import.
Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said that European countries should be congratulated for not supporting the proposals, and that the Commission's position on GM was 'deeply unpopular and clearly undemocratic'.
Simon Barber, director of plant biotechnology at the European Association for Bio-industries, EuropaBio, said that the countries concerned had no scientific basis to maintain their bans. 'The Commission is doing its job, the member states are flouting the law that they put in place.'