Democracy fails as genetically engineered seeds allowed to enter Europe

Press release - 16 August, 2005
Genetically engineered seeds, such as the GE rapeseed developed by the U.S. biotech company Monsanto, are likely to be given the green light to be imported into Europe. The European Commission is planning to publish its decision on the controversial seeds into the European Union for use in food and animal feed today, despite 13 of the 25 EU member states voting against the proposal (1).

“The Commission will be blatantly disregarding the wishes of the majority of its member states and pushing this controversial decision through at a time when representatives are on holiday,” said Greenpeace International Campaigner Christoph Then. “Allowing the import of Monsanto’s GE rapeseed into Europe poses substantial risks to the environment and maybe even to human health.”


GE seeds pose several risks to the environment, specifically the uncontrolled dispersal of the seeds contaminating non-GE crops. The GE rapeseed is to be imported as whole kernels and then milled, a hugely risky process, as the seed cannot be completely contained during the process and transportation.


Once dispersed, the GE rapeseed can grow, pollinate and then spread rapidly across Europe. Pollen from rapeseed is reported to travel for several kilometres. The first cross-contamination of wild rapeseed and its GE counterpart was reported in the UK recently. In addition to this, documentation from authorities investigating GE imports into Japan showed importing rapeseed for processing can cause massive dissemination of GE rapeseed around the harbours and the mills. Of the ten harbours investigated, eight were contaminated. A number of transport routes as far as 30 kilometres from the port were also affected.


There is growing concern amongst experts that GE rapeseed should never be cultivated in Europe precisely because its pollination and dissemination cannot be controlled. Even Bayer, another biotech company, withdrew its EU application to grow GE rapeseed after EU member states raised their concerns.


Another concern is the significant health effects that have been observed in animal feed trials. Recent studies by Monsanto on rats showed potentially adverse effects, especially significant differences in liver weight. However, the company has withheld the original data of these studies from the public (2).


The risks of uncontrolled spillage and unanticipated adverse effects of the GE rapeseed were even acknowledged by the EU Commission in its decision to allow the imports. The Commission demands that additional measurements must be made against spillage and reporting systems for any observed effects. However, Greenpeace believes these measurements are clearly insufficient.


“While it is encouraging that the EU Commission acknowledges the fact that this crop can hardly be prevented from escaping into the environment it should be using that very evidence to reject market approval of GE seeds completely. The alternative of putting effective controls and monitoring systems in place on voluntary agreements is simply unworkable,” said Then. “The decision should be revoked immediately, and the standards of EU risk assessment and procedure of EU authorisation be reorganised completely.”


Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation, which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions, which are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Christoph Then, Greenpeace International GM campaigner, (m) +49 171 878 0832Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Media Officer (m) +31 646 162 026

Notes: (1) In the EU Council of Environment Ministers on December 2004, only six member states voted in favour of the GE rapeseed (GT73), but 13 voted against and the rest of 25 abstained.(2) Greenpeace wrote several letters to national authorities to get hold of the data. After the organisation won a court case allowing it access to Monsanto’s confidential data of feeding trials with GE maize in June 2005, it was also expected that the data on the feeding trials with GT73 would be made public; but so far the documents have not been published. Contrary to EU law German officials explicitly refuse access to the data, and Greenpeace is awaiting a reaction from the Government in The Netherlands, where Monsanto originally filed the data.This is the fourth time the EU Commission has allowed the import of GE crops after a five years moratorium that ended in 2003. The other crops are herbicide resistant maize (NK603) and sweet maize containing insecticidal toxin (Bt11) and maize meant for animal feed (MON863).

Exp. contact date: 2005-10-31 00:00:00