Biotech Potato Wins European Approval; May Signal a Larger Shift on GM Crops

By Smriti Rao | March 3, 2010 1:03 pm

potatoesAfter 12 years of refusing to let any new genetically modified food crops take root in the European Union, the EU has finally given the go-ahead to an engineered potato. However, the GM potatoes won’t end up in French pomme frites or German potato dumplings, as they’ve been approved only for industrial or animal feed purposes. Regulators say the high-starch spuds will likely be used by paper and textile companies.

The Amflora potato was created by the German chemical company BASF and will be cultivated this year on a commercial scale of 250 hectares in the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Germany. Before Amflora, only one other GMO had been approved for cultivation in the EU — Monsanto’s MON810 maize, in 1998 — in spite of repeated findings from the European Food Safety Authority that such products did not pose health risks [Financial Times]. And even though that GM maize variety was officially approved by the EU, a number of European countries have banned its cultivation.

The EU’s decision to allow cultivation of the GM potatoes was met with considerable opposition. Heike Moldenhauer, of Friends of the Earth, said the potato carried a controversial antibiotic resistant gene that could cause problems if it enters the food chain through feeding the industrial pulp from the potatoes to livestock [The Telegraph]. Unlike the United States, where GM crops are widely cultivated, many of the European Union’s member countries remain staunchly opposed to their use, with critics particularly vocal in France, Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Greece.

John Dalli, EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, said the decision to allow the GM potatoes was based on “sound science.” The approval, coming after a dozen years of official hostility to GM crops, may signal a larger shift in policy. The decision also raises the possibility that other GM crops could soon win cultivation approval…. Along with the cultivation approval, the commission announced that it would proceed with plans to allow European countries to independently decide if GM crops can be grown in their borders [Greenwire].

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Image: Wikimedia

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • A.Padmanabhan

    Why alter the naturally occuring product and change its mutations for good or bad .Is it not a fact in creation there is balance and imbalance naturally. should we alter it not fully knowing the implications articially.Am reminded of the incident in the rain forest areas of Borneo spraying DDT to eradicate musqito resulted in eruption of Tyfus and cholera(?) and sudden collapse of the huts of the tribals over there who were leading a peacefull life with all the life’s interactions.There are many stories of vested interest playing a part thus harming the precious life like the one of Drug industry.

  • J.Ellul-Grech

    In his briefing John Dalli stated “the consumers and patients come first” Without having any experience of genetically modified products or farming experience he gave the go ahead to this. This is living proof and confirmation of his arrogant past. He always said one thing and then he does exactly the opposite.

    John Dalli has no expertise in this field. He is an accountant with a gift for manipulating figures to cover up his incompetence in controlling the budgets and targets he had set himself.

    In this case everyone comes last. If this got into the food chain most Europeans will end up seriously ill or we could also have another situation like THALIDOMIDE but on a much larger scale.

    John Dalli knows nothing about GMO. His expertise is in arrogance, incompetence, lies, political scandals and making false and malicious accusations. He is also an expert in selling national assets without authority for a pittance as he did with the sale of Mid-Med Bank in Malta.

    Dalli falsely and maliciously accused Joseph Ellul-Grech and the Malta Labour Party of sending 20,000 anonymous letters claiming to defame him. Ellul-Grech was acquitted of all charges and the Labour Party were absolved of all connection to this serious crime. However, the Police traced the stationery that was used back to Parliament. John Dalli had the means, motive and the opportunity to abuse public funds to do this to cover up his involvement in the Daewoo scandal. To confirm this visit and the links on this blog.

    Due to his past history and his current arrogance and incompetence he should be made to resign.

  • Jay Fox

    The problem with these GM foods is that some idiot seems to think that adding a pesticide, or in this case, an antibiotic, to food is a good idea.

    They cannot control exactly where these genetic snippets get inserted, and thus do not have a handle on exactly where these genetic traits are expressed. The end result is that the food in question contains some of these so-called beneficial “extra genes.”

    Exactly how are we supposed to wash off the pesticides if they’re INSIDE the food?

    Is it a good idea to ingest low level antibiotics in your daily food? Most doctors would say that absent a real need, it’s lunacy.

    Monsanto proved with it’s Star-Link corn that it is nearly impossible to keep GM foods separate from those deemed safe for humans. Besides, if you wouldn’t eat that, why would you eat the cow that ate it?

    The science of genetic engineering is still in it’s infancy. There is still much to be learned. It may eventually be possible to use this technology to improve food crops, but at the present, it is not. There are too many unanswered questions. The science is not anywhere near complete enough to bet the farm on it, so to speak.

  • Paul

    There is an interesting write-up here
    on how researchers in Australia tried to create a mouse contraceptive through genetic engineering and instead, entirely by accident, created an incredibly lethal version of mouse pox. To mix and match genes across genus, phyla and kingdom and then release these self-propagating organisms into the wild and pretend anyone has any idea the ultimate result is nonsense, it is the height of recklessness and hubris. The story of the sorcerer’s apprentice was 200 years ahead of its time.

  • John Fryer

    The GMO producers and regulators hide behind legal speak. Bretagne is GMO free. But millions of tons of GMO soya come into Lorient, Bretagne each year so that for the whole of France – supposedly GMO free – we eat a kilogram of GMO every week.

    What has happened to our health? Well ignoring 20 or more illnesses that have increased one in particular is damage to our guts – quite logical if we are eating toxic GMO food. This has increased 5 fold in 15 years.

    GMO is SAFE. GMO producers and regulators tell us so. People that tell us that GMO is toxic and UNSAFE or that guts are being damaged get pushed out of employement after 35 years (Dr A Pustzai) or chased and hounded out of the medical profession after a sustained 12 year WITCH HUNT (Dr A Wakefield).

    What is to stop potatoes not passed for human consumption from getting into the food chain. If you look at the very new GMO history you will find dozens of faux pas already.


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