Athens expands national ban on GM maize varieties
Athens – Greek Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kontos has renewed a decree banning the sale of genetically engineered Mon810 Bt maize varieties for another 18 months after an ultimatum of the European Commission ran out in January. In mid-April, his ministry extended this market ban to additional 16 transgenic maize varieties that entered the Common ‘EU Seed Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species’ last year.
Greece fears negative long-term ecological effects such as the development of insect resistance, the disruption of biodiversity among non-harmful and beneficial insects, and a heightened danger of GM cross-pollination due to “the high prevalence of bee-keeping in Greece and the relatively small size of holdings”. The Greek move is based on the so-called safeguard clause, that allows EU member states to implement precautionary measures if they provide scientific evidence for adverse effects on human and animal health or on the environment caused by transgenic crops.
Last summer, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) evaluated scientific data presented by the Greek government. However, the EFSA concluded that there was no evidence for any negative impact of the transgenic crops that could justify a national ban on Mon810 acreage. On the basis of this safety assessment, the Commission asked Greece to lift the ban on acreage of the 17 authorized Mon810 varieties.
The Commission is under pressure to push the member states to follow the EU decisions on GM varieties. Otherwise it has to face financial consequences due to market protectionism. In 2006, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concluded that there was no scientific evidence for a EU GM moratorium from 1998 to 2003 and demanded the Commission lift the existing GM market bans.
The GM-sceptical environmental group Greenpeace applauded Greece’s decision to renew and to extend its ban on the sale and cultivation of genetically-modified maize seeds.