Brussels, 02 April 2002
Reacting to new research findings reported by the European Environment Agency (EEA), three ecological NGOs (non-governmental organisations) have called on Member State governments and the European Commission to prevent any genetically-modified (GM) sugar beet and oilseed rape crops being grown in the EU.
According to Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the European Environmental Bureau, the new research confirms that if GM crops were commercially grown in Europe, there would be a massive risk of contamination of non-GM crops. Such a risk would be unmanageable, particularly for oilseed rape and beet, the environmental NGOs said.
In France, recent research carried out by the national institute for agronomic research (INRA) revealed that the gene implanted in herbicide-resistant rapeseed could be found in a related weed, the wild radish. The weed then flourishes and becomes resistant to herbicides. This is why the French Government banned GM oilseed rape crops on French soil in 1998.
According to the EEA research report on 'the significance of gene flow through pollen transfer', quoted by the three ecological NGOs, 'rapeseed can also be described as a high risk for crop-to-crop gene flow and from crops to wild relatives'.
The three NGOs emphasise that GM-plants have had no evolutionary development; i.e. they did not develop in a given ecosystem among their natural predators. They are more resistant to natural predators or parasites. Given that they are better off than local natural varieties, the latter could disappear in the future, leading to reduced biodiversity.
The implications of the EEA report, according to the NGOs, are that the cultivation of GM-oilseed rape and beet should not be allowed in the EU, and that the European Commission and Member States should take action to suspend several authorisations already granted for GM oilseed rape.
The three NGOs have invoked the 'precautionary principle' in relation to this case, a principle that is, they emphasise, enshrined in the EU Treaty 'in order to prevent irreversible damage to European agriculture and biodiversity'.