ifrik: EFSA announced that it needs another month to discuss the opinions of scientists who see risks in growing GM potato #Amflora

For the third time the EU Commission handed the Amflora dossier back to the EFSA in 2008. This time not only the GMO panel but also the Biohazard panel are asked about their opinion. And after months EFSA announced that they would need more time to come to a conclusion because two of their experts have a different opinion then the rest.

According to a German newspaper report there will be no Amflora cultivation in 2009. In May 2008, the EU Commission had requested an additional opinion from the EFSA after memberstates did not find a qualified majority to approve or reject BASF's application to cultivate the GM ptotato in Europe. Concerns were raised repeatedly about the antibiotic resistance marker gene nptII in Amflora, that among others concerns antibiotica used as a last resort for multi-resistant tuberculosis.
But a closer look at the Draft Decision by the EU Commission also shows that the EU Commission came to a very different conclusion about risks and risk management of Amflora cultivation. While the EFSA stated that they agreed with BASF that no case-specific monitoring was needed, the EU Commission drafted a decision in which case-specific monitoring was requested to monitor effects on potato feeding animals on and around the fields - an issue the EFSA had not even considered in its review of the application. (More details in the German report EU-Risikomanagement.)
Already in 2008 2008, BASF had sued the EU Commission for unduly delaying a decision. A new EFSA opinion was expected on 15 December, but now will only be published in March 2009 - too late for planting in 2009, independent of what the outcome of this new opinion will be.

]On 4 December 2008, the EU environmental ministers decided that there needs to be a better system to assess the risks of GM crops. They cam to the conclusion that it would be especially important to study long-term effects, and that EFSA should pay more attention to the concerns raised by EU member states.

An assessment of statements and decisions by the EU Commission shows that the EU Commission repeatedly points to the independence of the EFSA instead of taking up the responsibility to assess and control the work of the EFSA. So far the Commission usually hides behind the EFSA opinions and in practice even leaves the power to take decisions to the EFSA even though this is in contradiction to the EU regulation. In other cases however, like the cultivation of Bt11, 1507 maize and Amflora, at least some parts of the EU Commission disagree with the EFSA opinion.

Christoph Then & Antje Lorch. Study for Hiltrud Breyer (MEP) Bündnis 90/Die Grnen. December 2008.

Die Auswertung von Stellungnahmen und Entscheidungen der EU-Kommission führt vor Augen, dass die EU-Kommission sich mit Verweis auf die Unabhängigkeit der EFSA ihrer Aufgabe entzogen hat, klare Vorgaben für deren Arbeit zu machen, die EFSA-Angaben zu prüfen und zu kontrollieren. Sie hat sich bisher hinter den Gutachten der EFSA versteckt und im Endeffekt Entscheidungsgewalt auf die EU-Lebensmitelbehörde verlagert, obwohl dies laut entsprechenden EU-Vorschriften nicht möglich ist. In einigen Fälle jedoch, z.B.

Christoph Then & Antje Lorch, 2008. Studie im Auftrag von Hiltrud Breyer, MEP, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen.

[img_assist|nid=203|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=43]The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) responsible for the environmental risk assessment of GMOs - or more accurately: reponsible for reading the papers submitted by companies who want to import or cultivate their GM crops in the EU - invites comments on its updated Guidance Document of the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)for the risk assessment of genetically modified plants and derived food and feed.

[img_assist|nid=108|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=43]On 20 February 2007, the EU Environmental Ministers are supposed to decide on an application by BASF for the cultivation of a genetically modified potato. BASF seems to be optimistic that this application will be approved: the company already registered in January more then 150 hectares in the German states Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for commercial cultivation. But somehow nobody seems to raise this issue, nobody seems to oppose it.

A. Lorch, GID 180 Februar 2007.

[img_assist|nid=108|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=43]Bei der EU liegt ein Zulassungsantrag von BASF für den Anbau einer gentechnisch veränderten Kartoffel vor, über den die EU-UmweltministerInnen am 20. Februar entscheiden sollen. Die BASF scheint zuversichtlich, hat sie doch bereits Mitte Januar über 150 Hektar für den Anbau in Brandenburg und Mecklenburg-Vorpommern angemeldet. Und dennoch regt sich kein Sturm der Entrüstung, geht kaum jemand auf die Barrikaden. Fünf gute Gründe, sich dennoch gegen die Zulassung der BASF-Gentech-Kartoffeln zu engagieren.

A. Lorch, GID 180 Februar 2007.

[img_assist|nid=108|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=43]BASF applied for approval for the cultivation of the GM starch potato Amflora, as well as for its use as food and feed. Even though the application does not include any sufficient information to evaluate its environmental and food/feed safety, the EFSA gave a positive opinion.

Approval for BASF's starch potato Amflora (EH92-527-1) is sought under Directive 2001/18 for cultivation only, but an additional application has been filed under Regulation 1829/2003 for approval as food and feed.1

Edited version of comments submitted to EFSA's 'Open consultation on Starch potato EH92-527-1', December 2006.