Austria bans Monsanto’s GE maize

Feature story - July 25, 2008
Austria has banned the import of the highly dangerous genetically engineered maize MON 863. The maize (corn) is produced by US agro-chemical giant Monsanto.

Activists paint a field of illegally grown GMO maize (Monsanto MON810), in order to expose its location. The GMO maize is being illegally grown, aseither the farmer, or the French government have notdeclared it.

The announcement was made by Minister of Health and Family, Dr. Andrea Kdolsky, on health safety grounds.

MON 863 is genetically engineered to produce a toxin against the cornborer, an insect that can cause damage in maize. Tests carried out on rats fed with MON 863 maize revealed they suffered liver and kidney damage. In 2005, we passed evidence of these tests to a team of experts headed by Professor Gilles Eric Séralini, a French governmental advisor on genetic engineering (GE), for independent evaluation.  The study found  "it cannot be concluded that GE corn MON863 is a safe product".

The maize has been controversial since 2004, when French newspaper Le Monde reported rats fed with MON863 maize showed changes in the composition of their blood and possible damage to internal organs.

In spite of the scientific evidence, in January 2006, the European Commission allowed the maize to be imported into the European market for human and animal consumption. It is also authorised for human consumption in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Taiwan and the US. MON863 is mainly grown in the US and Canada.

"The Austrian import ban sends a strong signal to the EU Commissioners, to EU member states and other governments around the world, that Monsanto's MON 863 maize is a risk to human health and needs to be withdrawn from all markets as soon as possible. Governments must put the safety of their citizens above the commercial interests of companies such as Monsanto,"  Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaign coordinator said.

In addition to banning imports of MON 863, Austria has already banned growing Monsanto's GE maize MON 810, as have France, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Poland over safety concerns. Scientific studies showed MON 810 is harmful to wildlife, soil and human health. Its inbuilt toxin, which is also designed to kill the cornborer, seeps into soil harming animals critical to soil health, such as earthworms, and other wildlife including butterflies, ants and spiders. MON810 - the only GM crop currently grown in the EU - is currently due for re-authorisation under EU rules.

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