Testbiotech is calling for an end to the cultivation of GE maize MON810

26. April 2024

New data on outcrossing of transgenes

In its contribution to the annual stockholders’ meeting held by Bayer (Germany), Testbiotech will be calling for an end to the cultivation in the EU of genetically engineered (GE) maize MON810. This GE maize produces an insecticidal protein. New research published by Spanish scientists is the reason for the call to end cultivation of this maize. The scientists found that the transgenic maize had crossed with teosinte, a related wild plant species. Besides exhibiting signs of increased invasiveness, the hybrid offspring of these plants also produce the insecticide.

The research was carried out in Spain by the state research institute INIA-CSIC (Centro Nacional Instituto de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria). The scientists showed that under field conditions there is a high probability that the GE maize will cross with teosinte, and thereby transfer the transgene for the insecticide to the wild plants. These hybrid offspring grow taller and flower earlier in comparison to teosinte, thus increasing the probability of spread in the environment.

“If the cultivation of MON810 in Spain is not stopped, there is a risk that populations of insecticidal, transgenic and hybrid wild plants with an increased tendency to spread will be established. Bayer must therefore stop selling seeds for the cultivation of the GE maize,” says Christoph Then for Testbiotech in his contribution for the annual meeting to be held by Bayer.

The appearance of teosinte was observed for the first time in Spain in 2014. It originated in Mexico and is considered to be a wild relative of maize. The spread of teosinte in Spain has led to crop losses, as the teosinte plants are often only detected in the fields at harvest time. Testbiotech called on the EU Commission as early as 2016 to stop the cultivation of the GE maize in the affected regions to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the transgenes.

There are other reasons to end the cultivation of MON810: the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently expressed concern about signs of resistance developing in insects (European corn borer) in Spain, which the GE maize is intended to combat. In addition, the authorisation for cultivation of the maize had expired in 2008. Since then, the maize could only be cultivated because the EU Commission has granted a provisional extension. However, while an official authorisation for cultivation of GE maize ends after 10 years, this provisional extension is now valid for around 17 years. According to Testbiotech, this shows a failure on the part of the EU Commission which is responsible for the relevant approval procedures.

The cultivation of GE maize in Spain has fallen sharply in recent years. While around 140,000 hectares were still being cultivated in Spain in 2014, this figure has now fallen to less than 50,000 hectares. Besides Spain, the maize is also cultivated in Portugal, albeit on a much smaller area and also with a clear downward trend. In Germany, the cultivation of MON810 has been banned for around 15 years.

Contact:
Christoph Then, info@testbiotech.org, Tel + 49 151 54638040

Further Information:

Spanish Publication

EFSA opinion

Previous information on Teosinte

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