Swiss moratorium on all GE cultivation extended

Zurich, 8 March, 2010Today the Swiss Parliament extended by three years the countries moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered  (GE ) plants. Enacted in 2005, Switzerland will stay free of GE-seeds until 2013.
The recent approval of GE potato has been met with a wave of strong
reactions among the EU member-states. The governments of Greece,
Austria, Luxembourg, Italy, Hungary and France have publicly announced
that they will not allow the cultivation of the GE potato in their
countries. Currently, six EU member-states (Austria, France, Germany,
Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg) have bans on GE maize cultivation.

“While EU Commission President Barroso dabbles in a dangerous genetic
experiment, the Swiss’s moratorium on GE crops continues to protect
its environment, agriculture and consumers,” said Myrto Pispini,
Greenpeace International Agriculture Campaigner. “The EU should follow
this example and implement a moratorium on all GE food.”

GE-crops are part of an outdated intensive agriculture model that continues the use of environmentally harmful chemicals, failing to generate high yields, or provide solutions for the food crises and climate change. GE crops also pose unpredictable risks to human and animal health.

In 2009, GE cultivation in the European Union decreased by 11%.
Reasons to abandon GE-crops, aside from national bans, include the
high price of GE-seed, the lack of markets for GE-crops, and the
requirement for strong measures to keep GE-crops apart from
neighboring fields with conventional or organic crops.


The Independent, UK

March 4, 2010
Fury as EU approves GM potato
By Martin Hickman and Genevieve Roberts

Critics claim plant could spread antibiotic-resistant diseases to humans.
The introduction of a genetically modified potato in Europe risks the
development of human diseases that fail to respond to antibiotics, it
was claimed last night.

German chemical giant BASF this week won approval from the European
Commission for commercial growing of a starchy potato with a gene that
could resist antibiotics – useful in the fight against illnesses such
as tuberculosis.

Farms in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic may
plant the potato for industrial use, with part of the tuber fed to
cattle, according to BASF, which fought a 13-year battle to win
approval for Amflora. But other EU member states, including Italy and
Austria and anti-GM campaigners angrily attacked the move, claiming it
could result in a health disaster.

During the regulatory tussle over the potato, the EU’s pharmaceutical
regulator had expressed concern about its potential to interfere with
the efficacy of antibiotics on infections that develop multiple
resistance to other antibiotics, a growing problem in human and
veterinary medicine. Amflora contains a gene that produces an enzyme
which generally confers resistance to several antibiotics, including
kanamycin, neomycin, butirosin, and gentamicin.

The antibiotics could become “extremely important” to treat otherwise
multi-resistant infections and tuberculosis, the European Medicines
Authority (EMA) warned. Drug resistance is part of the explanation for
the resurgence of TB, which infects eight million people worldwide
every year.

“In the absence of an effective therapy, infectious Multiple Drug
Resistant TB patients will continue to spread the disease, producing
new infections with MDR-TB strains,” an EMA spokesman said. “Until we
introduce a new drug with demonstrated activity against MDR strains,
this aspect of the TB epidemic could explode at an exponential level.”

After member states become deadlocked on the potato’s approval, the
European Commission approved it for use in industries such as paper
production, saying it would save energy, water and chemicals. Once the
starch has been removed, the skins can be fed to animals, whose meat
would not have to be labelled as GM.

The EC, whose decision was backed by the European Food Safety
Authority (Efsa), said there was no good reason for withholding
approval. Health and consumer policy commissioner John Dalli said:
“Responsible innovation will be my guiding principle when dealing with
innovative technologies.”

“Stringent” controls would ensure none of the tubers were left in the
ground, ensuring altered genes did not escape into the environment.
Opponents fear bacteria inside the guts of animals fed the GM potato –
which can cause human diseases – may develop resistance to antibiotics.

Some member states were furious. “Not only are we against this
decision, but we want to underscore that we will not allow the
questioning of member states’ sovereignty on this matter,” said
Italy’s Agriculture Minister, Luca Zaia. Austria said it would ban
cultivation of the potato within its borders, while France said it
would ask an expert panel for further research.

Campaigners accused Brussels of failing to follow the precautionary
principle. Friends of the Earth’s Heike Moldenhauer said: “The
commissioner whose job is to protect consumers has, in one of his
first decisions, ignored public opinion and safety concerns to please
the world’s biggest chemical company.”

Campaigners suspect Brussels is in favour of the widespread planting
of GM crops despite opposition by some member states. Yesterday it
also announced its intention to allow states more leeway in backing GM

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506

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