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EFSA to meet stakeholders following GM corn decision

By Stephen Daniells , 03-Aug-2009

The European Food Safety Authority will meet with stakeholders in September to discuss its recent opinion on Monsanto’s GM corn, MON810.

The authority recently published a positive opinion on the biotech giant’s YieldGuard insect-protected corn trait, known as MON 810. However, following publication of the decision eco-campaigners Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth released a report opposing the decision.

According to the campaigners’ joint report, EFSA’s opinion was “totally biased by a multitude of approximations and omissions”.

Following the report, EFSA has said it will review the report issued by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and invite stakeholders to meeting in September for scientific discussion on its opinion”.

EFSA is the EU’s independent risk assessor. While the European institutions are not bound to take its opinions into account, the Commission may now propose renewing the MON 810 approval for cultivation and other uses of conventional corn in the bloc.

In 2008 the trait, marketed as YieldGuard, was planted on some 107,000 hectares in seven member states. The trait is resistant to the corn borer pest.

But in France, Germany, Hungary and Austria the trait has been banned. In April Monsanto filed a law suit against the German government after the cancellation of the planting of 3600 hectares. The trait has been approved in Germany since 2005 but agriculture minister Ilse Aigner claimed she had “legitimate reasons” to believe the maize to be a danger to the environment – and believes the Environment Ministry to agree with the view.

A clause in EU law does allow member states to impose such a ban, but Monsanto claims they can only do so once a plant has already been approved if new scientific evidence has come to light.

The recent positive opinion was described by Monsanto as “favourable”. The company said it demonstrated “a strong commitment to science-based decision-making”.

Reacting to criticism

“EFSA recognises that there are different points of view on GM technology and is aware that the conclusions of the GMO Panel in its scientific opinion concerning the renewal of MON810 may not support the views of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth,” said EFSA.

The stakeholder meeting is specifically seeking to respond to claims by the Greenpeace-Friends of the Earth report that it down-played or ignored certain research.

“All proteins either present in MON810 or found to be theoretically possible have been investigated and the Panel said they would not raise a safety concern,” said EFSA.

The authority also added that it “did indeed review a 90-day study on MON810 and has now corrected reference to this research in the bibliography of its opinion”.

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