Yesterday the EU Parliament adopted with a large majority several resolutions against approvals for genetically engineered maize, oilseed rape and cotton. The resolutions were tabled by a cross party group of MEPS, initiated by the Green group. The resolutions call for higher standards in risk assessment and the strengthening of democratic decision making. The plants produced by Bayer and Syngenta are resistant to herbicides and produce insecticidal toxins, with some of them producing these in combination.
Just before Christmas, the EU Commission approved the import of a Bayer / Monsanto maize that produces six insecticidal Bt toxins. The decision was taken despite recent scientific findings indicating substantial risks to the immune system from Bt toxins. Furthermore, there may be risks to health from residues left from spraying the maize with large amounts of the herbicides glyphosate and glufosinate that the plants are resistant to. Combinatorial effects of the toxins together with the residues from spraying with herbicides remain untested.
At the request of the EU Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has assessed some new research published by Mexican scientists. This new research concludes that a Bt toxin (Cry1Ac) which is also produced in several genetically engineered plants authorised for import into the EU can cause allergies. However, the EFSA has come to the conclusion that the study does not provide any new information and suffers from methodological flaws. Testbiotech in turn asked the Mexican scientists for their comments.
Currently, the EU is facing the biggest case of uncontrolled spread of non-approved genetically engineered organisms in its history: viable bacteria with a four-fold resistance to antibiotics, of which three are due to genetic engineering, have been found in animal feed products. The resistance is to antibiotics that are therapeutically important. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the animal feed products pose a risk for “consumers, users and the environment”.