New ruling bans GM potato from Europe
BRUSSELS: Europe’s secondhighest court overturned a decision by the European Commission to allow the cultivation and sale of a genetically modified potato developed by German chemicals group BASF.
The General Court of the EU said the commission had failed to follow the bloc’s rules when approving the Amflora potato, which is genetically modified to produce extra starch for use in the paper industry.
While Amflora is no longer grown in Europe – BASF withdrew the product in 2012, citing opposition to the technology – the ruling raises new concerns about the EU’s complex and much-criticised approval system for GMO crops.
The surprise approval of Amflora was one of the first decisions taken by the EU’s then- health commissioner, John Dalli in 2010. Dalli was forced to resign last year after being linked to a tobacco bribery scandal.
It was only the second time a genetically modified plant had been approved for cultivation in Europe, and prompted an angry response from envi- ronmental campaigners.
It also led to a legal challenge against the decision by Hungary, supported by other EU countries opposed to GMOs, including France, Austria and Poland.
The commission first proposed the cultivation and sale of Amflora in 2007, following a positive scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
But in its judgment, the General Court said that following the publication of an updated scientific opinion by EFSA in 2009, the commission should have submitted new proposals for approval by EU governments rather than simply adopting its 2007 version.
Currently, only one GMO crop is grown commercially in Europe – an insect-resistant maize developed by Monsanto. It is sown on about 100 000 hectares of farmland, mainly in Spain.
That level is dwarfed by an estimated 170 million hectares of GMO crop cultivation globally, mainly in the Americas and parts of Asia.
Repeated EU scientific assessments have concluded that GMO crops are safe for humans. – Reuters