Another German minister calls for GM maize ban / European resistance grows
2.Hungary's President campaigns against GM foods
3.EC Fails to Lift GM Maize Bans in France, Greece
4.Luxembourg - Europe's Capital, declared "GMO-free City"
5.US, EU continue to dispute GM products at WTO
6.Anti-GM victory in European court 'draws line in sand'
7.MEPs see off attempt to weaken the EU's policies on GM food and farming
QUOTE: "The top priority in the use of genetic technology in agriculture must be placed much more on the precautionary protection of people and the environment" - Germany's Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel
1.Another German minister calls for GMO maize ban
Reuters, Feb 20 2009
HAMBURG - Germany should reconsider its policy of permitting farmers to grow maize with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and consider banning biotech crops, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday.
Gabriel is the second minister to raise a change of GMO policy this week, following Farm Minister Ilse Aigner's statement she may review permission to grow MON 810 GMO maize, developed by U.S. biotech group Monsanto Co..
Germany should consider following countries like France, which had imposed a unilateral bans on GMO maize cultivation, Gabriel said in a statement.
"We should also follow this prudent course taken by our neighbors," Gabriel said.
MON 810 maize has been approved as safe to cultivate by the European Union and all farmers in the bloc are theoretically free to grow and sell it. The maize is resistant to the corn borer, whose caterpillars damage plantings.
France and Greece have imposed unilateral bans which are controversial in the face of the EU wide approval and are claimed by some to break EU regulations.
Moves are under way to force both countries to lift their bans, although EU biotech experts on Monday failed to agree on issuing an order to both countries to allow GMO crop cultivation.
Gabriel said Germany should review its policy of permitting GMO cultivation before this season's crops are sown in the spring.
"The top priority in the use of genetic technology in agriculture must be placed much more on the precautionary protection of people and the environment," Gabriel said.
In early February, German farmers registered intentions to plant 3,567 hectares of GMO maize for the 2009 harvest, up slightly from the 3,207 hectares cultivated in 2008.
But the total is an insignificant part of the German annual maize cultivation of around 1.8 to 2.0 million hectares.
Earlier this week Monsanto hit back at German government criticism, saying its MON 810 GMO maize had been approved as safe by Germany's own Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety along with the European Food Safety Authority, the EU's key food safety agency.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by James Jukwey)
2.Solyom campaigns against GM foods
Hungary Around the Clock, 20 February 2009
President Laszlo Solyom has written to an informal network of environmentalist heads of state seeking support for Hungary's moratorium on the production and commercial distribution of genetically modified maize in Hungary.
Hungary has not gone along with a European Commission decision to lift a ban on certain genetically modified products.
Solyom argues that Hungary has the right to decide whether to use or ban genetically modified maize. He believes that such products are not conventional commercial items, as they could be harmful to the environment.
The question is expected to be tackled by EU environment ministers on March 2.
Representatives of Hungarian and international environmental groups will visit the embassies of EU states in Budapest today to seek support for Hungary's stance.
3.EC Fails to Lift GM Maize Bans in France, Greece [shortened]
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), 20 February 2009
French and Grecian fields will remain free of genetically modified (GM) crops for the time being after the European Commission (EC) failed in its bid to force the two countries to lift their controversial bans. The bans targets MON810, an insect-resistant strain of maize manufactured by GM heavyweight Monsanto. It is currently the only GM crop approved for planting in the EU.
Despite being deemed safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Greece invoked a 'safeguard clause' in 2006 to keep MON810 seeds out of the country and France followed suit last year (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 25 January, 2008, http://ictsd.net/i/news/biores/9357/). Because the safeguard clause is designed to be a temporary measure, the bans must be perpetually extended.
The EC has been under pressure by the WTO to address the non-compliance of these countries on the issue. The WTO argues that the national bans are effectively denying market access allowed under trade rules to countries that use biotechnology in agriculture.
4.Luxembourg, European Capital, declared "GMO-free City" [shortened]
Two thirds of the Luxembourg communes refuse GMOs
Yahoo France, 20 February 2009
[Translated from the original French by GM-free Ireland.]
The city of Luxembourg and the GM-free Luxembourg initiative - which includes Greenpeace Luxembourg amongst its 25 member organisations - have made an announcement on the "GM-free Luxembourg" campaign during a press conference at the Town Hall.
The city of Luxembourg, a European capital, has declared itself a "GMO-free city" along with two thirds of the local city communes, thereby refusing the release of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on its lands and in its funded food catering services.
The GM-free Luxembourg intitative is a coalition of 25 civil society organisations which founded and launched the "GM-free Luxembourg" campaign in the summer of 2006. Since then, two thirds of the Communes [local authorities] declared themselves "GM-free Communes", thus aligning themselves with the will of Luxembourg's consumers, 83% of whom reject GMOs on their plates, according to an ILReS pollin 2005.
The city of Luxembourg's "GM-free" declaration has symbolic significance, as it is the largest commune in the country, a European capital, the seat of many European institutions, and the birthplace of one of the European Union's founding fathers, Robert Schumann.
"This decision has considerable political significance, given the European Commission's attempt to impose dangerous new GMOs on Europe against the wishes of more than 60% of European consumers", said the campaign co-ordinator, Maurice Losch.
5.US, EU continue to dispute bananas and bio-tech products at WTO [shortened]
Food and Beverage Online, 21 February 2009
During dispute settlements sessions at the World Trade Organization on Thursday, the United States and European Union continued to argue over tariffs on banana imports and bans on genetically modified foods.
The US alleged that the EU was failing to comply with a judicial body decision on bio-tech products, saying that nine member states had bans in place on the goods which were 'not based on risk assessment,' meaning they were not proven to have negative health consequences or similar concerns.
Specifically, Austria came under fire for its ban on insect-resistant maize, a boycott that the US said has spread to other EU countries in spite of the product being safe.
The European Commission said its relevant bodies were discussing the issues, and since the bio-tech question were first raised several years back it has authorized about 20 products. It said it believe the appropriate way forward was through dialogue.
6.Anti-GM victory in European court 'draws line in sand'[shortened]
By Dan Burglass, rural affairs editor
The Scotsman, 19 February 2009
THE cultivation of genetically modified crops is not illegal in the EU, but their proponents have found little support over the years.
A pronouncement yesterday by the European Court of Justice will have done nothing to advance the GM argument.
The case revolved around a small French community close to Strasbourg who argued they were entitled to have knowledge of any GM crops in their vicinity.
The judges supported that contention, and the ruling has been warmly welcomed by Alyn Smith MEP, the only Scottish member of the influential EU agricultural committee.
Smith said: "This is a significant judgment, and puts a very clear line in the sand for those who seek to undermine by stealth the EU's opposition to GM crops. This issue is regularly raised with me as I travel across Scotland, and I am quite clear in my mind that anything that risks our reputation in the eyes of the public for healthy, wholesome local food production must be viewed with extreme caution.
"The SNP government's policy on GM is spot-on, and a calm, measured rational stance compared to the hysteria we see from some quarters.
7.MEPs see off attempt to weaken the EU's policies on GM food and farming
Comment by GM-free Ireland:
The EU Parliament's Draft report on Biotechnology: Prospects and Challenges for Agriculture in Europe (2006/2059(INI)), which MEPs rejected yesterday, can be downloaded here:
This was the second attempt by the pro-GM Finnish MEP Kyösti Virrankoski to weaken the EU's policies on GM food and farming. Far from "improving GM risk assessents" - as misleadingly described in the title of the ENDS article [below] - adoption of the report would have made them far worse.
In 2008, the Parliament also rejected Virrankoski's first attempt, which was backed by the Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness who inserted text promoting the release of GM pharmaceutical crops!
MEPs fail to agree on improved GM risk assessments
ENDSEurope, 18 February 2009
The parliament's environment committee has narrowly rejected a non-legislative resolution calling for greater harmonisation, speed and respect for the EU's risk assessment procedure for GMOs.
Some MEPs wanted greater subsidiarity, not harmonisation, and a more restrictive approach to GM authorisations. The resolution was rejected in a vote on Tuesday by 29 against versus 25 in favour.
*Meanwhile, the European court of justice has ruled that the right of public access to information applies to releases of GMOs. Member states cannot refuse to disclose where GMOs have been released, to test them in the open-air for example, the court said on Tuesday (EE 05/01/09).
*On Monday, a committee of member state experts failed to reach a qualified majority in favour or against European commission proposals to force France and Greece to lift bans on the cultivation and imports of genetically modified (GM) maize MON 810 (EE 22/01/09).
The proposals will now pass to EU ministers. Member state experts are also due to vote on commission proposals to authorise the cultivation of two new GM maizes, Bt11 and 1507, next Wednesday.
European parliament environment committee
(http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/envi/default_en.htm) and judgement in case C-552/07 (http://curia.europa.eu/jurisp/cgi-bin/form.pl?lang=en&Submit=Submit&docrequire=alldocs&numaff=C-552/07) . See also commission press release (http://www.endseurope.com/docs/90218b.doc) and Greenpeace reaction (http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/press-releases2/reaction-GM-standing-committee090216)