Greece extends ban on genetically modified corn


CBC News (Canada)
May 27, 2009

Greece has extended a ban on a strain of genetically modified corn produced by U.S. agriculture biotechnology company Monsanto for another two years.

The ban on importing and cultivating MON 810 has also been expanded to include 100 types of the seed, up from 70 last year, the country’s Agriculture Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

MON 810 — also known as YieldGuard Corn Borer — is a strain of corn extremely resistant to European and southwestern corn borers. These caterpillars eat and damage corn plants before becoming adult moths.

The strain, which was authorized for use by the European Union, was banned in Greece in 2005. Greece claims the strain poses a potential threat to human health. The government also believes pollen from MON 810 maize could threaten its beekeeping industry. Greece produces about 16 per cent of Europe’s honey.

Ban in Germany

Greece’s move comes a month after Germany banned MON 810.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said in April she believed the crop poses a danger to the environment.

Monsanto subsequently filed a lawsuit against the German government, calling Berlin’s move a "capricious ban" that had no scientific basis.

The crop has been approved as safe by the European Food Safety Authority, and the commission is concerned about potential trade disputes arising from the bans. Indeed, when Aigner visited the United States earlier this month, she said trade officials there interpreted Germany’s move as a protectionist measure.

France, Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg are the other European countries to ban the strain, which is used in Canada, the United States, Japan and other European countries. The European Commission has tried to overturn those bans, but has so far been unsuccessful.

Opponents of genetically modified foods say their long-term effects on human health and the health of the environment have not been studied enough.

Producers of genetically modified crops, such as Monsanto, say the plants are as safe as traditional varieties and promise higher yields at a lower cost to farmers and consumers.

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