Brussels, 09 Sep 2004
A decision by the European Commission to allow farmers to commercially grow up to 17 different types of genetically modified (GM) maize seeds across Europe has received mixed reaction from politicians and consumer groups.
The Commission decision paved the way for the inscription of 17 varieties of seeds derived from MON 810 maize in the Common EU Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species. Seeds included in the common catalogue can be marketed in the entire EU.
EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection David Byrne welcomed the move, calling it a 'logical step' and emphasising that the maize has been found safe for human health and the environment. 'It has been grown in Spain for years without any known problems. It will be clearly labelled as GM maize to allow farmers a choice,' he added.
This position was echoed by the European Parliament's Conservative environment spokesperson, Caroline Jackson, who said that 'there is absolutely no proven health risk associated with GM food or feed, and [...] priority must therefore go to informing consumers of GM presence so that they can make an informed choice.'
'GM technology has great promise to help us feed the world's growing population and give us alternative fuel crops,' added Ms Jackson.
The Friends of the Earth, Europe's largest environmental network, is, however, less enthusiastic about the Commission decision. 'The European Commission's proposals are a recipe for disaster. They will lead to the widespread contamination of Europe's food, farming and environment and take away consumers' ability to avoid GM,' said Geert Ritsema, GMO campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth. 'European Member States must step in where the Commission has failed and ban these GM seeds,' he added.