Commission to decide definitely on genetically modified Maize 1507 seed


The Commission is now expected to definitely authorize or deny the cultivation on EU soil, of the genetically modified seed of maize 1507 developed by the American company Monsanto, an affiliate of US giant DuPont. This decision will allow EU member states to exercise their freedom to choose, whether or not to allow the cultivation of this GMO on their territory. This is where things stand now, almost thirteen years after the placement of the initial application by Monsanto in 2001. The company says the seed is resistant to certain insects (butterflies pests).

In the latest developments of this affair, the General Court of the European Union delivered on 26 September 2013 a ruling finding that the Commission failed to act on this GMO cultivation request, even though it had been referred to the Standing Committee by the Commission with a positive recommendation, but it had never been referred to the Council of the Ministers. The initial request for the placing on the market of seeds for cultivation was submitted by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. and Mycogen Seeds to the competent authority of Spain in 2001, “under Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs”. The European Food Safety Agency, EFSA, has already submitted opinions on this request in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and twice in 2012, that is in all there are six opinions by EFSA.

A 12 years old story

After the Court ruling of 23 September last year, the Commission as “Guardian of the Treaties” had to comply with this and on 6 November acted accordingly and referred the dossier to the Council of Ministers. The dossier ended up on the table of the 3292nd General Affairs Council meeting, which was convened in Brussels yesterday 11 February. However, the Council could not reach a qualified majority either in favour or against the Commission proposal to authorise the placing on the market for cultivation of this genetically modified maize 1507.

In view of the importance of the issue, the European Parliament intervened ahead of yesterday’s Council. To this effect, on 16 January a Resolution was tabled in the plenary house of the legislative, saying that “The genetically modified maize “Pioneer 1507” should not be placed on the market for cultivation, because its insect-resistant pollen might harm non-target butterflies and moths”. It also added that, “The MEPs call on the EU Council of Ministers to reject its proposed authorisation, and urge the European Commission not to propose or renew authorisations of any GMO variety until risk assessment methods have been improved”. The resolution was passed by 385 votes to 201 with 30 abstentions. The truth is that this Parliament resolution despite being of paramount political importance, doesn’t legally bind the Council or the Commission.

No decision in the Council

After the no-decision in the Council, its Hellenic Presidency committed to hold a debate on GMOs in the Environment Council. The applicable rules though, demand that the definite decision to allow or deny the cultivation of this GMO maize 1507 seed on EU soil has to be taken by the Commission. In this respect, it is reminded that the Commission has introduced the issue in the Council with a positive proposal in favor of authorising the cultivation of this maize seed on EU soil.

Nevertheless, the EU’s executive arm cannot ignore the 16 January Resolution of European Parliament. The legislators observed that “In its February 2012 opinion, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) explicitly did not agree with the conclusion cited by Pioneer that there is negligible risk of maize line 1507 to non-target Lepidoptera in the EU, and pointed out that they may be at risk when exposed to its pollen”. Parliament also notes that “maize 1507 is resistant to the herbicide glufosinate, and is marketed as such in the United States and Canada. However, the EU classifies glufosinate as toxic to reproduction and will not authorise its use after 2017”.

Given that the Commission’s decision will be final, the College of Commissioners should think twice before following the same line of reasoning, as while introducing positively this issue to the Council.

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