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John Gormley, TD( Letter to)  re GM EU votes

Written in Consultation: 02/06/09, 09:30:41 by jonathan  | Print article  | View all categories.
John Gormley, TD( Letter to)  re GM EU votes|jonathan|1233941441|John Gormley, TD
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Customs House
Dublin 1
Ireland 6 February 2009
RE: Upcoming EC votes in February and March on:
• Cultivation of GM maize varieties Bt11 and 1507
• French, Greek and Hungarian national bans on MON810 maize
Dear Minister John Gormley,
We are writing to you concerning Ireland’s forthcoming votes on the European Commission’s proposals
(a) to approve two controversial genetically modified (GM) maize varieties (Bt11 and 1507) for cultivation
in the EU, and (b) to force France, Greece and Hungary to drop their national bans on the cultivation of
MON810 GM maize. We understand these votes will be made by the Standing Committee on Animal
Health and the Food chain on 16 & 25 February and by the Council of Environment Ministers on 2 March.
We urge you to ensure that Ireland votes NO on the cultivation of the two new GM maizes, and that
Ireland supports the national bans on MON810 maize implemented by France, Greece and Hungary.
Please bear in mind that on 4 December 2008, the EU Environment Council unanimously concluded that
the EU’s GMO laws are not being correctly implemented, and that EFSA’s current GMO risk assessment
process has got to be improved.1 The Council of Ministers emphasised the obligation for EFSA to:
• Assess the long-term impacts of GM crops and their effects on non-target organisms (Article 3),
including a thorough review of the EFSA guidelines to this effect, as previously requested by the
European Commission (Article 2 and 3);
• take full account of the Member States’ specific regional and local characteristics (Article 15);
• co-ordinate the risk assessments of pesticide-producing GM crops (such as Bt11 and 1507) with
the risk assessments of pesticide products (Article 4);
• assess the environmental consequences of changes in the use of herbicides caused by herbicidetolerant
crops (such as Bt11 and 1507 which are tolerant to glufosinate as well as secreting the
Bt toxin) (Article 4);
• address the socio-economic impacts of GM cultivation by June 2010 (Article 7).
Moreover, DG Health and Environment instructed EFSA last September to assess the potential negative
environmental consequences of the changes in herbicide use caused by herbicide-tolerant GM crops.2
But EFSA has never assessed Bt11 and 1507 according to these criteria, even though they produce Bttoxin
and are resistant to glufosinate herbicide! Furthermore, there is no point in approving these GM
maizes now because glufosinate will become illegal under the new EU Pesticides Directive.3
It is clear that the Commission’s proposals to authorise the cultivation of Bt11 and 1507 maize disregard
the Pesticides Directive as well as every single one of the above-mentioned recommendations.
Also bear in mind that the Commission issued the proposal to approve the cultivation of these two GM
maizes after accusations of “undue delay” from Pioneer, which produces the 1507 maize. Following legal
threats by Pioneer, the Commission made a deal to disregard the scientific controversy around these
kinds of GMOs and the concerns about the impact GM crops will have on wildlife and European farming.
We therefore urge you to vote NO on the cultivation of the Bt 11 and 1507 GM maizes.
Regarding the national bans on Monsanto’s patented MON810 maize in France, Greece and Hungary, bear
in mind that the Community re-assessment process for MON810 is currently ongoing. The Commission’s
request to force these national bans to be lifted at this stage — before the completion of an independent,
transparent and peer-reviewed re-evaluation of MON810 — is simply unacceptable.
MON810 maize has proven adverse indirect and long-term effects on non-target organisms,4 5 6 on soil
health,7 8 9 and aquatic ecosystems10 11; it also causes insect resistance to the Bt toxin it produces.12 13
The transgenic DNA inserted into MON810 may create novel proteins whose long-term health and
environmental dangers may be impossible to predict. The risk assessments submitted to EFSA were
based on a pure Bt toxin produced by bacteria in a laboratory, and not the actual toxin produced by the
modified crops.14 This pseudo-scientific risk assessment invalidates most, if not all, of MON810’s “safety”
tests. Furthermore, the level of Bt toxin produced by MON810 varies strongly between geographical
locations, over time, and between plants in the same field.15 Widespread cross-contamination by MON810
maize in the Regions of Aragón and Catalonia in Spain — the only EU member state where it grown on a
significant scale — has deprived farmers there of their right to grow conventional and organic maize.16
Your agreed Programme for Government wisely aims to keep the island of Ireland off-limits to GM crops,
following GM-free zone declarations by 19 Local Authorities representing over 1 million citizens on both
sides of the border with Northern Ireland. Eurobarometer found that almost 60% of the EU population
oppose the use of GMOs in agriculture.17 GM proponents still claim GM crops are widely accepted, even
though they are only grown on 2.4% of the world’s agricultural land and 0.02% of arable land in the EU.
In April 2008, Ireland and 57 other countries signed the International Assessment of Agricultural Science
and Technology for Development (IAASTD) which found no role for GM crops in achieving the U.N.
Millennium Development Goals or in eradicating hunger. Sustainable agriculture requires agro-ecological
systems that create jobs, stimulate rural development, and defend nature and people by protecting soil,
water, climate, and biodiversity. Such farming systems ensure resilient farming and food safety for
present and future generations, and do not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or GMOs.
Please consider the points and footnote references outlined in this letter to vote NO on the two Bt maizes,
and to support the national bans on MON810 implemented by France, Greece and Hungary.
Yours sincerely,
Michael O’Callaghan,
Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network
Mauro Albrizio,
Vice President, European Environmental Bureau
Marco Contiero,
EU Policy Director, Sustainable Agriculture and Genetic Engineering, Greenpeace European Unit
Benedikt Haerlin,
Director, Save our Seeds
Helen Holder,
Coordinator, GMOs, Food and Farming Campaign, Friends of the Earth Europe
René Louail, European Coordination, Via Campesina
Marco Schlueter, Director, IFOAM EU Group
Rosita Zilli, Policy Adviser, EuroCoop
1 Council Conclusions on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), 2912th Environment Council meeting,
Brussels, 4 December 2008
2 Letter of Mr. Madelin and Delbeke of 8 September 2008 to Ms Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle
3 On 13 January 2009 the European Parliament agreed with the Council on the text of the Regulation
concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and repealing Council Directives
79/117/EEC and 91/414/EEC. The Regulation’s criteria identify glufosinate as one of 22 substances that
must be phased out in the EU because of the serious health and environmental risks it poses.
4 Prasifka, P.L., Hellmich, R.L., Prasifka, J.R. & Lewis, L.C. 2007. Effects of Cry1Ab-expressing corn
anthers on the movement of monarch butterfly larvae. Environmental Entomology 36:228-233.
5 Andow, D.A. and A. Hilbeck. 2004. Science-based risk assessment for non-target effects of transgenic
crops. Bioscience 54: 637-649.
6 Obrist, L.B., Dutton, A., Romeis, J. & Bigler, F. 2006. Biological activity of Cry1Ab toxin expressed by Bt
maize following ingestion by herbivorous arthropods and exposure of the predator Chrysoperla carnea.
BioControl 51: 31-48.
7 Baumgarte, S. & Tebbe, C.C. 2005. Field studies on the environmental fate of the Cry1Ab Bt-toxin
produced by transgenic maize (MON810) and its effect on bacterial communities in the maize
rhizosphere. Molecular Ecology 14: 2539–2551.
8 Stotzky, G. 2004. Persistence and biological activity in soil of the insecticidal proteins from Bacillus
thuringiensis, especially from transgenic plants. Plant and Soil 266: 77-89.
9 Zwahlen, C. Hilbeck, A. Gugerli, P. & Nentwig, W. 2003. Degradation of the Cry1Ab protein within
transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis corn tissue in the field. Molecular Ecology 12: 765-775.
10 Rosi-Marshall, E.J., Tank, J.L., Royer, T.V., Whiles, M.R., Evans-White, M., Chambers, C., Griffiths,
N.A., Pokelsek, J. & Stephen, M.L. 2007. Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater
stream ecosystems. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences of the USA 41: 16204–16208.
11 Bøhn, T., Primicerio, R., Hessen, D.O. & Traavik, T. 2008. Reduced fitness of Daphnia magna fed a Bttransgenic
maize variety. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology DOI 10.1007/s00244-
12 Chilcutt, C.H. and B.E.Tabashnik. 2004. Contamination of refuges by Bacilus thuringensis toxin genes
from transgenic maize. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101:7526-7529.
13 Andow, D.A. 2001. Resisting resistance to Bt corn. In: Genetically engineered organisms: assessing
environmental and human health effects. Letourneau, D.K. and B.E. Burrows (eds.) Boca Raton, FL: CRC
14 Rosati, A., Bogani, P., Santarlasci, A. Buiatti, M. 2008. Characterisation of 3’ transgene insertion site and
derived mRNAs in MON810 YieldGard maize. Plant Molecular Biology DOI 10.1007/s11103-008-9315-7.
15 Nguyen, H. T. & J. A. Jehle 2007. Quantitative analysis of the seasonal and tissue-specific expression
of Cry1Ab in transgenic maize MON810. Journal of Plant Diseases and Protection 114: 820-87.
16 Hewett, K., Azzez, G. The economic impacts of GM contamination incidents on the organic sector.
In Breckling, B., Reuter, H. & Verhoeven, R. (2008) Implications of GM-Crop Cultivation at Large Spatial
Scales. Theorie in der Ökologie 14. Frankfurt, Peter Lang.
17 Special Eurobarometer 295. Attitudes of European citizens towards the environment. March 2008.
Available at URL: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_295_en.pdf