2.BASF GM potato authorisation - Greenpeace comment
3.ACRE Jumps the Gun on GM Spud Application
NOTE: After news that the British Government is considering surrounding GM crop trials in secrecy, we discover that its GM advisory body (ACRE) is discussing GM applications ahead of the official mandatory period of public consultation! (item 3)
EXTRACTS: Patrice Courvalin - Head of Antibacterial Agents Unit at the Institut Pasteur medical research centre: 'We should keep trying to prevent dissemination of antibiotic resistance rather than to allow products into the food chain that could potentially make a bad situation even worse.' (item 2)
'In the case of potato cyst nematodes there are several control options which don't require either pesticides or GM crops. We are in danger of getting to a point where GM is the only option which gets the funding needed to develop it.' (item 3)
1.How they voted on the GM potato
The EU Agriculture Council voted on five GMOs yesterday. None were for cultivation, and in all cases Member States failed to reach the required majority to authorise commercialisation. Therefore the requests will now be sent back to the Commission which is expected to authorise them. Here are the detailed voting results for the BASF starch potato:
BASF GM Potato (altered starch)for animal feed use
Pro: (9 MSs) UK, SE, NL, FI, BE, CZ, EE, ES, BU (not sure about BU)
Abstained: (3 MSs) FR, PT, IE
Against: (15 MSs) DE, RO, AT, LUX, LT, LV, IT, GR, DK, MT, CY, PL, HU, SL, SK
This is an increase compared to the voting last July when 11 Member States voted against the potato.
The agenda of the meeting with the detail of all the GMOs voted on can be seen at:
2.BASF GM potato authorisation
Greenpeace, 19 February 2008
Greenpeace calls for an end to the deadlock between the Council and the European Commission. Yet again the Commission proposal to get GMOs authorised did not get Council approval. However, due to the inadequacies of the authorisation process, the Commission may nevertheless allow these products onto the EU market, which goes against the will of a majority of European citizens.
In the case of the BASF GM potato, Greenpeace calls on the Commission to urgently review the health risks arising from the antibiotic resistance properties of the potato, following statements by a leading scientist published in the International Herald Tribune yesterday.
Scientific evidence gathered by international bodies with expertise on the issue, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Medicines Agency (EMEA), was ignored by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Commission. The BASF potato contains a gene that could spread resistance to critically important antibiotics. The use of these genes has been subject to an EU-wide ban since 2004. Authorising this GMO would not only be illegal under EU law, but is also an irresponsible gamble with animal and human health.
The GM potato case highlights the huge cracks in the original Commission proposal and the fundamental lack of rigour in examining the real risks associated with GM products. Greenpeace calls on the Commission to solve the inconsistencies of the GMO authorisation process which has EFSA at its heart. It is high time for the Commission to stop hiding behind EFSA's flawed opinions.
Patrice Courvalin - Head of Antibacterial Agents Unit at the Institut Pasteur medical research centre: 'We should keep trying to prevent dissemination of antibiotic resistance rather than to allow products into the food chain that could potentially make a bad situation even worse.'(International Herald Tribune - 18 Feb)
The ball is now in the Commission's court. The next step should be to address the future of EFSA and how EU law on GMOs is implemented.
EFSA is a small, poorly-funded agency, which depends on the support of some 20 part-time scientists who end up taking decisions that affect the lives of half a billion European citizens.
EFSA is an advisory body which has a mandate to compose opinions, not to formulate decisions. The Commission cannot solely rely on EFSA's position, particularly when there is disagreement with recognised international bodies such as the WHO and EMEA.
Greenpeace European Unit is based in Brussels, where we monitor and analyse the work of the institutions of the European Union (EU), expose deficient EU policies and laws, and challenge decision-makers to implement progressive solutions.
3.ACRE Jumps the Gun on GM Spud Application
GM Freeze, IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 20 Feb 2008
GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth have written to Hilary Benn asking him to intervene to prevent his GM scientific advisors (ACRE ) from discussing an application to release GM potatoes in Yorkshire before the period for mandatory public consultation is completed.
Leeds University  applied to Defra in January to release GM potatoes modified to repel the pests potato cyst nematodes (PCN). The deadline for the public to comment on the application is 3 March. However ACRE will discuss the application 11 days before at their scheduled meeting on 21 February. Mr Benn will make the final decision to approve or refuse the application 'based on expert advice and public representations'.  Public consultation is mandatory under the GMO Regulations. 
In their letter to Hilary Benn, the organisations point out that it would be 'discourteous' for ACRE to discuss the application before the public consultation period is complete and 'that ACRE places a lower value on the comments from the public and stakeholders than on the material provided by the applicants'. The letter points out the sophistication of previous public responses to past consultations on GM policy and applications, and the need for ACRE to consider what the public says alongside the information provided by Leeds University before giving their advice to Mr Benn. 
There are several major reasons for Defra to turn down the application, including:
*Risk of contamination for neighbouring potato crops from insect cross-pollination.
*Lack of safety data on unexpected chemical changes in the GM potatoes.
*Lack of safety data on the synthetic genes genetically engineered into the potatoes.
*Lack of allergenicity testing on the GM repellant chemicals produced by the GM potatoes.
*The presence of antibiotic resistant marker genes in the GM potatoes.
Also, there is no market demand for GM potatoes in the UK and they are unnecessary PCN can be controlled using good husbandry. The keys are to have long rotations  allowing five years or more between crops, to plant trap crops, and to maintain good hygiene in the field to prevent PCN infestations growing large enough to threaten crop yields.
Commenting Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth said: 'ACRE should not be jumping the gun and should delay its meeting to allow time to consider what issues the public has raised. It would be very bad for democracy and public oversight of scientific research if the public’s views are seen to carry less weigtht than those wishing to release GM crops. People may well get very disillusioned and just not bother next time and that may lead to very bad decisions being made in the future.'
Pete Riley of GM Freeze said: 'In the case of potato cyst nematodes there are several control options which don't require either pesticides or GM crops. We are in danger of getting to a point where GM is the only option which gets the funding needed to develop it. Mr Benn should refuse this application and insist that sustainable management options are given a fair chance. Approving these GM potatoes could, in future, tempt farmers to adopt too short rotations, making other pest problems worse.'
GM Freeze Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 /07903 341065 or Eve Mitchell 07962 437128 Friends of the Earth Clare Oxborrow 0207 566 1716 /07712 843211
1. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) Agenda 21 February www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/meetings/08/ag-080221.htm