There is ‘no specific scientific evidence’ to support an Italian ban on the genetically modified maize MON810, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The EFSA scientific opinion comes after assessment of evidence submitted to the European Commission by Italian authorities to support the country’s ban on biotech giant Monsanto’s genetically modified maize MON810.
However, the EFSA Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (EFSA GMO Panel) has now concluded that all of the concerns raised by Italian authorities have been addressed in previous scientific opinions – adding that there is no evidence to support an Italian ban based on the ‘emergency measure’ measure under Article 34 of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003, nor is there evidence that would invalidate previous risk assessments of MON810 conducted by EFSA.
“The EFSA GMO Panel concludes that, based on the documentation submitted by Italy, there is no specific scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health or the environment, that would support the notification of an emergency measure,” said the GMO Panel.
“The EFSA GMO Panel has scrutinised the documentation provided by Italy in support of its emergency measure on maize MON 810. According to the terms of reference set by the European Commission, the EFSA GMO Panel assessed whether the submitted documentation comprises new scientific information that would invalidate the conclusions of its previous risk assessments of maize MON 810. Moreover, the EFSA GMO Panel considered the relevance of concerns raised by Italy in the light of the most recent and relevant scientific data published in the scientific literature,” reads the opinion.
The EFSA opinion states that documentation provided by Italy in support of the current emergency measure on maize MON 810, did not provide the GMO Panel with any new science-based evidence to support the notified emergency measure and to invalidate its previous conclusions on the safety of maize.
“Therefore, the EFSA GMO Panel considers that its previous risk assessment conclusions on maize MON 810, as well as its previous recommendations for risk mitigation measures and monitoring, remain valid and applicable,” said the opinion.
Italy had imposed a ‘de facto’ ban on the cultivation of maize MON 810 and other genetically modified crops through a national authorisation procedure, despite these crops being authorised for use within the EU. However, the European Court of Justice has recently stated that such as ‘de facto’ ban is illegal – meaning that Italy had to submit documentation to the Commission for assessment under an ‘emergency measure’ that could allow the ban according to Article 34 of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003.
Earlier this year Italy submitted this documentation to the Commission, who then passed it on to EFSA for scientific assessment.
This was followed by the adoption of a national ruling banning genetically modified maize MON 810 – a move which the Italian Ministry of Agriculture admitted may be inconsistent with the European law. However the Ministry noted that it would be unlikely that the European Commission would open an infringement procedure against Italy since in previous alike cases the Commission has not taken action.