Barroso Commission authorises controversial GMO potato

BASF GM potato could increase antibiotic resistance

Press release - March 2, 2010
Brussels, Belgium — In one of its first decisions since taking office, the European Commission has today authorised the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) crop for the first time since 1998. Health Commissioner Dalli, in agreement with President Barroso, used the so-called written procedure to authorise this crop so as to avoid a debate in the College of Commissioners. The genetically engineered potato (known as Amflora) developed by German agro-chemical company BASF contains a gene that confers resistance to certain antibiotics. Greenpeace warns that this GM crop poses an unacceptable risk to human and animal health, as well as to the environment.

Organic potatoes grown in Kristianstad, Sweden. Organic potato producers now face contamination from BASF's Amflora GM potato.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: "It is shocking that one of the Commission's first official acts is to authorise a GM crop that puts the environment and public health at risk. In six years, Barroso has been unable to bury scientific evidence questioning the safety of this GM potato. With his new Commission, he has steam-rolled a decision through without even holding a debate with all Commissioners. Health Commissioner Dalli has agreed to this cold-blooded approval that flies in the face of science, public opinion and EU law."

The World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency have warned about the "critical importance" of the antibiotics affected by the Amflora potato.[1] Releasing BASF's GM potato into the environment could raise bacterial resistance to life-saving medicines, including drugs used for the treatment of tuberculosis. There have also been unprecedented disagreements by the usually pro-GM European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in a number of assessments on the Amflora potato.[2] Furthermore, a majority of EU countries has opposed the authorisation of this GM crop in the past. With scientific concerns on the GM potato still unresolved, Greenpeace calls on EU member states to prohibit the cultivation of the Amflora potato on their territory.

Medical experts are increasingly concerned about antibiotic resistance and an EU law was adopted in 2001 requiring that antibiotic resistance genes that could pose a threat to human health and the environment are phased out by the end of 2004.[3] BASF applied for authorisation for the use of this GM crop as food and feed in 2005.

Amflora has a high content in starch and was developed for use in industrial processes, animal feed and fertilisers. However, conventional potatoes with almost identical high starch content but without antibiotic resistance genes are also available on the market.


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

Mark Breddy – Greenpeace EU communications manager:
+32 (0)496 156229,

Notes to editors:

[1] World Health Organisation, Critically Important Antibacterial Agents for Human Medicine for Risk Management Strategies of Non-Human Use. Report of a WHO working group consultation, 15-18 February 2005, Canberra, Australia.

Also see: EMEA - Committee for medicinal products for veterinary use and Committee for medicinal products for human use, Presence of the antibiotic resistance marker gene nptII in GM plants for food and feed uses. 22 February 2007.

[2] See

[3] Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms, Article 4(2)

For a chronology of the GM potato authorisation process, click here