Mounting Controversy Threatens GE Food Sector in EU

New Scientist October 17, 1998

6) Modified potato is taken off the menu
BYLINE: Debora MacKenzie
DOUBTS over the effects of genetically modified crops on health and the
environment are threatening to undermine attempts by biotech companies
sell them in the European Union. For the first time, the European
Commission's scientific advisers have recommended that a genetically
modified plant should be withheld from the market because they cannot
guarantee its safety. And Britain's environment minister, Michael
is considering imposing a three-year moratorium on transgenic
crops grown for commercial use.
The Dutch company Avebe this year applied to the Commission
for permission to sell a potato that has been modified to
produce extra starch. The potato also contains a marker gene
which confers resistance to amikacin, an important antibiotic.
The Commission's Scientific Committee on Plants, a group of 15
independent scientists, last week said the crop should not be
licensed for sale in the EU because it was unable to assess the
risk of the gene spreading. Last month, France withdrew its
consent for a Bt maize marketed by Novartis, pending a review of
the risks of antibiotic resistance (This Week, 3 October, p 5).
Meanwhile, British government officials were last week
discussing a three-year moratorium on the marketing of
transgenic crops with environmentalists and the Supply Chain
Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC) - a lobbying
group representing the National Farmers' Union and seed and
agrochemical companies.
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