Romania says ‘No’ to GE and declares its future organic

Feature story - 27 March, 2008
In an historic move, the Romanian Government today announced it will ban genetically engineered (GE) maize and embrace organic agriculture. The move is particularly significant as GE maize is the only commercially cultivated GE crop permitted in Europe.

Monsanto's GMO corn threatens biodiversity.

Minister of Environment and Durable Development Mr Attila Korodi's announcement banning Monsanto's GE maize MON 810, makes Europe's largest per hectare maize producer GE-free.

"My ministry is in possession of new scientific studies showing that GE is not safe for human health or the environment," Korodi said. "These are the same studies that have recently been used by other European Union Member States such as France, Hungary, Austria and Greece to justify the banning of Monsanto's GE maize MON 810...

"We expect [the ban] to come into force around 15 April. Until that time, we demand that Romanian farmers do not plant MON 810 seeds. The future of Romania is organic," he declared at an event organised by Greenpeace, Slow Food and the Organic Farmers Organisation of Romania.

Romania cultivates about 3 million hectares of maize annually, losing GE companies an important market.

The Government's decision makes Romania the seventh of Europe's leading maize producers to ban the growing of Monsanto's GE maize, following France, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Greece and Poland.

Scientific studies which have been significant in European governments' decision to reject GE have shown MON 810 maize is harmful to wildlife, soil and human health. Its inbuilt toxin, which is designed to kill the cornborer, a pest considered insignificant in Romania and other parts of Europe, seeps into soil harming animals critical to soil health, such as earthworms, and other wildlife including butterflies, ants and spiders. Proof of its safety for human and animal health are inconclusive.

"Romania's GE ban marks a seismic change. It sends a critical message that this dangerous technology will not be tolerated. It is vital the European Commission protects all of Europe's farmers, consumers and environment by introducing an EU-wide ban against GE cultivation," Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaign coordinator said.

Monsanto's 10-year licence, granted by the European Commission to grow MON 810 throughout the EU, comes up for renewal later this year. This provides an important opportunity for the Commission and European Union (EU) Member States to reject GE once and for all.

In November of last year, Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for the Environment, raised concerns over the safety of GE cultivation. But to date his proposal to ban the growing of two GE maize varieties has been blocked by President of the European Commission Manuel Barroso.

"The Romanian people overwhelmingly reject this unsafe, unnecessary and unsustainable technology," said Gabriel Paun, GE Campaign Coordinator for Greenpeace Romania. In 2007, a Greenpeace-commissioned opinion poll conducted by Mercury Research showed 67 percent of Romanians do not want to eat GE food.

Apart from safety concerns, GE also poses contamination threat to natural crops. There have been 216 contamination events in 57 countries since GE crops were first grown commercially on a large scale in 1996, as Greenpeace and GeneWatch UK's latest GM Contamination Register Report shows.   Greenpeace is calling for an international standard to hold biotech companies to account for the damage and financial losses they cause.  

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