EU Commission meeting this week
Munich/ Brussels 4 November 2013 Several observers expect the EU Commission to make a decision at a meeting on 6 November on the market authorisation of the genetically engineered maize varieties, SmartStax and Power Core. SmartStax was developed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences by crossing several genetically engineered plants. It produces six insecticides and is resistant to two herbicides, glyphosate and glufosinate. This decision has been pending for several months. Meanwhile thousands of concerned European citizens have written to the Commisioner Tonio Borg asking him not to authorise SmartStax for food and feed. In a letter sent to the Commission last week Testbiotech summarised some arguments about why this variety of maize cannot be considered safe. There are a number of substantiated concerns that the genetically engineered plants will have adverse effects on health.
Today, Testbiotech will publish its findings from a pilot project initiated to analyse herbicide residues in soybean crops grown in Argentina. The samples were taken shortly before the harvest was due, and analysed by a laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires. The results showed surprisingly high levels of residue in plants that had been sprayed with glyphosate. Almost 100mg/kg were found in one of the samples. In seven of eleven samples, the level of residue was above the international maximum residue level of 20 mg/ kg allowed for food and feed products. The samples were taken from fields in Argentina in regions that are known for the cultivation of genetically engineered soybeans. Nearly all the soybeans grown in Argentina are genetically engineered, and made resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (brands such as Roundup). These soybeans were originally developed by the US company Monsanto.
A legal dossier commissioned by Testbiotech and published today highlights substantial gaps in the current EU regulation of genetically engineered organisms. According to the dossier, it cannot be ruled out that genetically engineered plants are allowed for cultivation in the EU, even if they can spread without control in the environment. In the light of these findings, Testbiotech is urging a strengthening of the precautionary principle.
The US company 23andMe has received a US patent for the selection of human sperm cells and oocytes (US8543339). Genetic data can be collected from which potential parents can choose donors according to criteria such as eye colour, longer life span and athletic properties.