Italy, Austria, Greens angered by GM potato
Italy, Austria and Green campaigners have slammed the European Commission after it approved the cultivation of genetically-modified potatoes on Tuesday. Austria said it would immediately ban the potatoes, while Italian Health Minister Luca Zaia said Italy will resist the decision.
"We want to underscore that we will not allow the questioning of member states' sovereignty on this matter," said Zaia after the announcement. "For our part, we will continue to defend and safeguard traditional agriculture and citizens' health."
The Amflora potatoes that were developed by German chemical company BASF will not be for human consumption. But environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth decried the potatoes as a threat to human health. They are earmarked for industrial use, including making starch for use in paper production, and for animal feed.
This is the first approval of genetically-motified food by the EU in 12 years. Monsanto, a US-based chemical company, was approved in 1998 to cultivate MON 810, a modified maize.
Three other maize products were approved along with the potato to be added to the European market, but these would not be grown within the EU.
The EU Commission defended its decision, saying that the crops wold be cultivated a safe distance away from crops grown for human consumption.
"After an extensive and thorough review of the five pending GM files, it became clear to me that there were no new scientific issues that merited further assessment," sais EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli.
But environmental groups are worried that the potato, which contains a marker gene that is resistant to antibiotics, could contaminate food.
"The new commissioner whose job is to protect consumers has in one of his first decisions ignored public opinion and safety concerns to please the world's biggest chemical company," said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Heike Moldenhauer.
BASF has expressed its "delight" in the EU approval.
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