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EU Blow to Monsanto

Belgium - 03 Mar 09

Ban on GM Maize Upheld

The European Union dealt a blow to Monsanto Monday voting to refuse to force Austria and Hungary to allow the cultivation of Monsanto genetically modified maize.

The EU Commission had asked the nations to lift provisional bans imposed by the two countries on growing US biotech giant Monsanto's MON810 GM maize, which is very resistant to insects.

"For me it's as if Austria had won the European football championship," said Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich.

Of the 27 European Union nations, five supported the EU executive's bid - Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Estonia.

It's expected that Washington will not be happy with the outcome of this vote. The US has warned Europe about using environmental issues as an excuse for protectionism in the areas ranging from biotechnology to greenhouse gas emissions.

The vote is good news for France and Greece, where there are similar cultivation bans is in place.

In another vote the EU nations decided to allow Austria to prohibit the cultivation of German chemical and pharmaceutical group Bayer's T25 GM maize. However the European Commission says the bans are unjustified because scientific testing has found that the maize is safe for the environment and consumers.

The spokeswoman for the commission, Barbara Helferrich, said they must continue to work to make Austria and Hungary drop their bans. She said if science says there is no evidence that the product is dangerous then "there is no reason" to go against it.

"We are now in a position to either come forward with the same proposal, change the proposal, - but we need reasons to do so - or change the procedure in and of itself.

"You can invoke the precaution principle but you have to prove it at some point," Helferrich added.

This is the third time the Commission has tried to force Austria to life the ban and the second time for Hungary.

Greenpeace said the vote was a victory for the environment, farmers and consumers. "The protection of the environment and public health should always come before the financial interests of a handful of agro-chemical companies," said Greenpeace.

Sandra Messick

Source
AFP

For more information on Slow Food's views on GMOs, download this extract of the Slow Food Almanach 2009




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