Madrid - The Spanish government is preparing to challenge the recent lifting of the six year long EU moratorium on new GMO products. The EU's ban effectively ended in May this year (see EuroBiotechNews 1-2/04) when the EU Commission approved the genetically modified sweetcorn variety Bt-11. This happened after new EU rules on labelling and traceability had come into force.
Since 1998 Spain cultivated around half a million tons of GM maize, thereby becoming “Europe's GMO grain house” as Spain's socialist Environment Minister Cristina Narbona put in on June 22. She added that the government would now seek the advice of independent researchers. She questioned whether it was wise to continue the country's extensive cultivation of GMO crops, and went on to accuse the previous conservative government of authorising a massive extension of GMO crops without waiting for “independent” scientists to reach a definitive opinion: “We want to reinforce independent research in this area, and I underline the word independent, because in this country, where there is little scientific investigation, many researchers are privately financed by companies that want the research to have a specific conclusion,” Narbona said.
The new ministerial way to deal with GMO does not seem to be the official line of the recently elected new Spanish government. A day after Narbona's statements Miguel Sebastián, Director of the Economic Office from the President said during the presentation of the 4th ASEBIO Spanish Biotechnology Report (see page 37) that the government would support every R&D effort “to gain more productivity and competitiveness” in Europe.
Until the time of going to press the Environment Ministery was unavailable for EuroBiotechNews to get more specific information on the next steps Narbona is intending to take.