Commission set to recommend approval of controversial new GM maize

Press release - November 6, 2013
Brussels – For the first time in three-and-a-half years, European Commissioners meeting in Brussels this morning have formally endorsed the approval of a controversial genetically modified (GM) maize for cultivation in European fields.


The crop, Pioneer-DuPont’s 1507, produces a pesticide toxin called Bt and is able to withstand intensive spraying with a herbicide known as glufosinate ammonium. The EU is set to phase out glufosinate from agricultural use by 2017 because of its toxicity .

Since 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a number of scientific opinions highlighting the impacts of the toxin released by 1507 on certain important insects such as butterflies and moths. Taking these findings into account, the European Commission twice requested Pioneer to modify its authorisation application [1]. Pioneer has constantly refused to amend its application.

Despite the herbicide resistance of the crop, EFSA has not carried out the legally required safety testing associated with an increased use of glufosinate [2]. Under EU law on GM crops, EFSA must assess “possible effects on biodiversity and non-target organisms which any individual [GM herbicide-tolerant] crop may cause due to the change in agricultural practices (including those due to different herbicide uses) (emphasis in original text) [3].

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: “The Commission is acting irresponsibly by recommending the approval of a GM crop that is known to harm butterflies and moths and that will encourage rampant use of a herbicide so toxic that it is being phased out in Europe. Given the environmental impacts, the lack of actual benefits from GM crops and the widespread public opposition, we ask: on whose behalf is the Commission acting?”

The Commission’s decision follows a ruling by the EU’s General Court criticising it for not submitting to EU ministers a recommendation to approve or reject the GM crop [1].

EU governments are now expected to vote on the Commission’s proposal in the coming months, but are unlikely to reach the necessary qualified majority to reject the Commission’s decision.

The last GM crop authorised for cultivation in the EU was BASF’s antibiotic-resistant GM potato in 2010. The crop was a commercial failure and was withdrawn after just two years. Since then, BASF and Monsanto have withdrawn all EU applications for GM crops apart from Monsanto’s MON810 maize, the only GM crop still grown in the EU (almost exclusively in Spain).


Marco Contiero - Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director:
+32 (0)477 777034,

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,



[1] Judgement of the General Court, CaseT‑164/10, 26 September 2013, paragraph 62.

[2] EFSA recognised 1507’s tolerance of glufosinate, but did not carry out a risk assessment, only recommending monitoring of impacts after the crop’s release into the environment.

[3] European Commission document on the environmental risk assessment of herbicide-tolerant plants:

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