Illegal genetically engineered maize let loose in Europe

Dutch authorities order partial recall

Press release - 9 May, 2007
The Dutch Food Safety Authority (VWA) announced today that it is recalling part of a cargo containing illegal Genetically Engineered (GE) maize imported from the United States of America. The VWA has also announced that it will step up inspections of US ships, from 10 to 25%. A press release issued by VWA confirms Greenpeace’ announcement made on 27 April 2007 (1) that the vessel Pakrac, which arrived in the port of Rotterdam on 10 April, brought maize containing GE Herculex RW maize gluten, produced by Pioneer/Dow. This type of GE maize is grown in the US, but is not allowed in the European Union.

Landraces varieties of Mexican maize. Oaxaca, Mexico.

Greenpeace supports the Dutch authorities' attempt to contain the spread of illegal contaminated maize but criticises both EU and Dutch authorities for being unable to detect and prevent the entry of illegal GE varieties into the EU. In the case of the Pakrac, despite the early warning issued by Greenpeace, the recall was ordered only after part of the illegal maize had already entered the food chain.

"The Pakrac cargo is just the tip of the iceberg; many more illegal GE shipments could be slipping into the EU, given the lack of systematic controls. The EU should suspend all imports of US maize and other agricultural products that are under suspicion of being contaminated by GE organisms until they can institute a proper system to protect consumers, farmers and the environment from the risks of unwanted GE food and animal feed," said Myrto Pispini, Genetic Engineering campaigner, Greenpeace International.

On 10 April 2006, members of a Greenpeace Biosafety Patrol took samples of maize from the cargo of the Pakrac. Scientific analysis of these samples confirmed the suspicion that the shipment contained illegal varieties of genetically engineered maize (Pioneer/Dow Herculex RW), including Monsanto's MON863 variant, which is currently under review in EU for potential health risks. (2) Greenpeace released these test results and called on the VWA to clamp down on all maize imports from America, and to prevent the tainted maize from being distributed.

However, VWA has recalled only the maize gluten that has not yet been processed, and not the quantity already processed into animal feed. The recalled maize will either be sent back to the US or burned in the Netherlands. According to VWA, the processed products are not being recalled, because "there is no risk for animals' or consumers' health. The same approach was followed last year when illegal GE rice entered The Netherlands." VWA also states that the body "expects that the illegal Herculex maize will be legalised in the European Union in the near future."

"The role of the EU Commission and EU governments is not to support the biotech industry but to monitor it strictly! On what basis is the VWA assuming that this maize will be legalised? And even if it were to be legalised at a future date, as of now, this contaminant maize has not been approved for imports in the EU -and is clearly an illegal import. According to EU law authorities must recall the entire tainted cargo and either destroy it, or return it to the original senders for proper disposal," concluded Pispini.

VVPR info: Myrto Pispini, Genetic Engineering campaigner, Greenpeace International: +306979443304Namrata Chowdhary, Greenpeace International Communications: +44 77 261 751 48

Notes: (1) (2) MON863 maize is authorised for food-and feed use in the EU. However, GE maize MON 863 is under suspicion of posing significant health risks and is currently under review by the European Food Safety Authority, after Professor Seralini, a French scientist, published a study which demonstrates that laboratory rats, fed with a genetically engineered (GE) maize MON 863, have shown signs of toxicity in kidney and liver. Séralini, G-E, Cellier, D. & Spiroux de Vendomois, J. 2007. New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity. Published in: “Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology”.