March 28, 2008
Romania set to ban approved GM corn crop
By Andrew Bounds and Thomas Escritt
Romania intends to join six other European Union members in banning the only genetically modified crop approved for use in the bloc, its environment minister said on Thursday, in a fresh blow to the biotechnology industry.
Attila Korodi called for a moratorium on planting MON810, a corn produced by Monsanto, the US company, and said his country’s bio-security committee would start examining the possibility of a ban on April 15.
Romania, a major agricultural producer, was a big grower of GM crops before it joined the EU last year.
Mr Korodi told the Financial Times a ban was likely as the committee would examine studies used by Hungary and France to justify their recent prohibition of MON810 because of its negative impact on the environment.
“If they say they have concerns, then we will ask the European Commission for a temporary ban,” he said. “We simply don’t know what its environmental impact will be.”
Italy, Austria, Greece and Poland have also banned the insect-resistant corn, claiming that the toxin it contains could be harmful to other wildlife. However, the Commission, which regulates the market, has yet to sanction their bans.
Stavros Dimas, the environment commissioner, has asked the European Food Safety Authority for an expert evaluation of MON810 and recommended that two similar products not be allowed on to the market because of environmental concerns.
Polls have shown most Romanians do not want to eat GM food, in tune with public attitudes in most EU countries.
Greenpeace, the environmental group, welcomed the news. “The Romanian people overwhelmingly reject this unsafe, unnecessary and unsustainable technology. It is vital the ban is in place as soon as possible, so natural crops can be safe from GM contamination before the sowing season starts,” said Gabriel Paun of Greenpeace Romania.
Europabio, which represents biotech companies, said the concerns were baseless and the bans would hurt farmers.
“The specific biotech maize has also been the subject of thorough scientific reviews by scientific communities around the world and has received positive approvals by the world’s most robust approval systems, as well as EFSA,” it said in a statement.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
Source: The Financial Times
(Let us not forget that racemic mixtures of thalidomide received "positive approvals", too.)
March 20, 2008
Mexico approves rules to begin planting GM corn
By Mica Rosenberg
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico, widely thought to be the birthplace of corn, said on Wednesday it will begin allowing experimental planting of genetically modified crops, despite resistance from some farmers who question their safety.
The regulations published in the official gazette are the last step needed to implement a law passed by Mexico's Congress in December 2004 that authorizes controlled GMO plantings.
Supporters of GMO foods, whose DNA is altered to be resistant to pests, say they are a way to boost world food supplies. But farmers in Mexico's rural south, where corn has been grown for thousands of years, worry GM corn will cross-pollinate with native species and alter their genetic content.
Under the new rules, the farmers who want to plant GMO crops must register with the agriculture ministry and environmental authorities to request a permit.
GMO corn seeds will not be allowed into certain parts of the country that are determined to be "centers of origin" for genetically unique corn strains found only in Mexico.
Bio-tech food producer Monsanto Co welcomed the decision in a statement, although the company noted that "the passage of these rules does not mean that permission will automatically be granted" to plant GMO crops.
Some farmers decried the decision.
"This is a step in the government's intention to bow to pressure from Monsanto to allow the contamination of Mexico's native corn," said Victor Suarez, who leads a group of small farmers opposing GMO crops.
Corn was first planted in Mexico as some 9,000 years ago and the country is now home to more than 10,000 varieties. The grain was adopted by Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500s and eventually spread to the rest of the world.
On Jan 1 Mexico, the United States and Canada lifted all corn tariffs under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico now imports between 8 million and 9 million tonnes of U.S. yellow corn a year, close to 35 percent of local consumption.
More than 70 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified.
With U.S. corn prices hitting record highs near $6 a bushel on increased demand for corn-based ethanol, corn farmers in the north say GMOs will help Mexicans cut down on expensive U.S. imports by producing more at home.
© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved
(Complex organisms are in their genetics more "delicate" than simple ones. If the insects die from (or refuse to eat) something, maybe you should take that as a warning.)