Commission only acts after 10 days
2.EU deplores unauthorized imports of maize

Commission only acts after 10 days
For immediate release: FRIDAY 1 APRIL 2005

Brussels, 1 April 2005 - Friends of the Earth today criticised the European Commission for doing too little, too late, about the illegal import into the EU of unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize. It is ten days since Swiss-based Syngenta announced that it had inadvertently sold hundreds of tonnes of the unapproved GM corn to US farmers for four years. The Commission confirmed today that around 1000 tonnes of the illegal GM maize has entered the European food chain and some was planted at tests sites in Spain and France. The Commission has now written to the United States and to the GM company for more information.

The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on March 22. The article revealed that, between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta produced and sold several hundred tonnes of a GM corn, called Bt10, which contains an insecticide. The corn has not been approved for human consumption anywhere worldwide. According to the article, Syngenta and the US Government were in discussions since last year over what should be done about the error, and how and when information should be released to the public.

Initially Syngenta claimed that the maize was "physically identical" to a GMO maize already approved, called bt11, a view mimicked by the Commission. However, Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that the unapproved GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistant gene, which confers resistance to an important groups of antibiotics. This week, Syngenta finally admitted this was the case. (1)

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "The European Commission's response is too little and too late. For ten days they haven't taken action, even though it was public knowledge that a food unapproved for human consumption had entered the European food chain. The public expects and deserves better. The Commission must now get back into control and demand that any illegal foods are immediately removed from the food chain."

Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)

The original Nature article can be found at:

1. Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.

2.EU deplores unauthorized imports of maize

BRUSSELS (AP) ”” The European Union said Friday that it deplored unauthorized imports of BT10, a form of genetically modified maize made by Switzerland's Syngenta.

Genetically modified products can be sold in the European Union only once they have been approved by EU authorities. Syngenta has yet to win approval for BT10, but the product has been imported into some EU countries, including France and Spain, the EU head office said.

U.S. federal and regulatory agencies are investigating after it emerged that Syngenta sold BT10 in the United States for four years without approval. Syngenta said the seeds had been used in four U.S. states and may have made their way in food supplies in the U.S. and elsewhere.

"Today we have written to the U.S. authorities and Syngenta asking for clarification of the situation with BT10," said Philip Todd, a spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

Up to 22 pounds of the seeds were imported into Spain and France for research purposes, according to the commission. Around 1,000 tons of food and feed products are thought to have entered the food chain in Europe since 2001, it added.

The Commission has asked Washington to supply it with a full risk assessment of BT10 and the quantities of the product it believes have been exported to Europe.

Syngenta must supply the commission with information on the structure of BT10 so that its presence can be detected by national governments.

BT10 contains proteins that are identical to the proteins in its BT11 crop, which has been approved in both the EU and the United States.

EU governments remain divided over genetically modified foods and have shied away from approving any new applications for the last six years due to public fears over health and environmental risks.

Last May, the Commission took the controversial step of exercising its power to overrule EU governments, approving BT11 for import and sale, but not cultivation.