Protest letter by the African Centre for Biosafety, the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering, Biowatch, and the Safe Food Coalition

Demand for a Ban on Imports of Bt176 and for a Public Enquiry into Safety of Food Derived from Genetically Modified Crops African Centre for Biosafety, the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering, Biowatch, and the Safe Food Coalition, May 2004

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  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Report


Dear Honourable Madam Ministers We wish to bring your attention to the decision taken by the Spanish government on the 29th April 2004, to ban Syngenta’s genetically modified (GM) Bt176 maize for commercial cultivation on the grounds that it may confer resistance to ampicillin. (EIEstado espanol retirara un OGM a instancias de la UE. El maize Bt 176 Podrian provoca resistencisas a los antibioticals, GARA). According to Richard Lopez de Haro, Spain’s Office of Crop Varieties, Spain’s food safety authority banned Bt 176 after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its report on the utilisation of antibiotic resistance market genes in GM plants. We also point out that even the United States, the world’s largest grower and exporter of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) does not allow for the growing of Bt176. Although the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Bt176 in August 1995, in January 2000, the EPA stated “no sales of Event 176 should take place after January 2000” (US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Amended Revised Response to EPA’s Data Call-In Notice Concerning the Potential for Adverse Effects of Bt Corn on non-target Lepidopterans. Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee). Several European countries including Austria, Luxembourg, France, Norway and the United Kingdom have expressed grave concerns about antibiotic genes in GM products. As a result, the EU has decided to prohibit GMOs with antibiotic resistance genes after the 31st December 2004.(Directive 2001/18EC) (Revising Directive 90/220/CEE). The National Department of Agriculture (NDA) approved Bt 176 as safe for food, feed and processing in South Africa several years ago. Indeed, the NDA has issued a large number of import permits for bulk shipments of tens of thousands of tons of GM maize from Argentina, containing several GM maize events, namely MON810, T25, Bt11 and Bt 176. According to your department, these bulk shipments of GM maize are imported from Argentina for animal feed by the animal feed industry in the Western Cape because it is cheaper for them than to purchase maize on the South African market. We remind you, Madam Ministers, that the purpose of biosafety legislation is not to enable industry to source the cheapest maize on the global market, but to protect the public from the risks posed by GMOs, based on the precautionary principle.