BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) – Friends of the Earth Europe today warned the European Commission that they will face increased public hostility if they force through the approval of a genetically modified (GM) sweet corn on Wednesday 19. Senior European bureaucrats are meeting on Monday 17 to agree the Commissions position. [1]

The sweet corn, called Bt11, is developed by Swiss-based Syngenta and has been genetically engineered to include a deadly insecticide. The application is only for food and animal feed imports in the European Union (EU) and not for growing in the EU. The application failed to get sufficient support from EU member states when they voted at a recent meeting on 26 April. If approved it will be the first new product allowed onto the European market since October 1998.

Friends of the Earth Europe, Europe’s largest grassroots environmental group, claim that with opposition so high and safety concerns unresolved there is little future for GM food and crops in Europe. In a new briefing published today Friends of the Earth Europe highlights that:

Consumers say no

There is virtually no market for GM foods in Europe as consumers have overwhelmingly rejected them. New EU labelling and traceability regulations came into force on April 18 th giving consumers better information to decide. Official opinion polls show that 94.6% of EU citizens want the right to choose and 70.9% simply do not want GM food.

GM free regions

Initiatives to ban GM crops from being grown have now started in at least 22 European countries with some regions introducing their own legislation to ban the crops. In France over 1200 municipalities have issued GM free statements as well as 500 cities in Italy.

GM industry in retreat

The biotechnology industry sees no future in Europe. Last week Monsanto withdrew their GM wheat after selling their European cereal business last year. Last month Bayer withdrew the only commercial crop it had in the UK. Applications to test GM crops outdoors have reduced 80% since 1997.

Exports lost

Countries that have planted GM crops on a large scale have seen their exports to Europe crash. Maize from the US to Europe has declined from 3.3 million tonnes in 1995 to just 25,000 tonnes in 2002. Canada has lost all of its oilseed rape (canola) market to Europe , worth an estimated $300 million.

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said:

“This will be one of the first major decisions of the newly expanded European Commission. It provides a great opportunity for them to put the welfare of its citizens before the financial interests of the biotechnology industry or its friends in the White House. There is clearly no political consensus across Europe on this genetically modified sweet corn. Scientists cannot agree over its safety and the public does not want it. If the Commission decides to force this down our throats then they can only expect the public’ s confidence in GM foods to sink even further.”


[1] The Heads of Cabinets meet on Monday to agree the position for the vote by Commissioners on Wednesday.


Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe – mobile 00 49 (0)1609 490 1163