WASHINGTON, January 16, 2014—The European Parliament on Thursday voted to reject the approval of GM corn in a move that sends a clear signal to the biotech industry and GMO supporters. While this is not the final word on whether the genetically modified corn can be cultivated in the European Union —it must also go through voting in the European Council—it does not bode well for the future of GMOs in Europe.
Engineered and sold by the biotech giant DuPont Pioneer, “GM maize 1507” is a genetically modified type of corn that produces its own insecticide and is tolerant to glufosinate-based herbicides.
Monsanto’s Bt-maize, which also produces its own insecticide, is the only GMO crop currently approved in the E.U.; maize 1507 would be the second. However, there are several questions surrounding the potential environmental impacts of maize 1507.
“The risk assessments from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) show that highly sensitive butterflies and moths may be at risk when exposed to maize 1507 pollen,” said German EP member Dagmar Roth-Behrendt to European Parliament News. “Yet, Pioneer refused to present additional documents regarding monitoring and risk mitigating measures for these non-target species.”
There are additional questions concerning the threat posed to bees, pollinators, and other beneficial insects, which was not analyzed in any EFSA. Environmentalists also fear that cultivation of maize 1507 “will encourage rampant use of a herbicide so toxic that it is being phased out in Europe,” said Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, in a statement in November 2013.
Contiero refers to maize 1507’s increased tolerance to glufosinate-containing herbicides. Like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, it is believed that glufosinate-tolerant crops will encourage farmers to use greater amounts of this chemical. Due to its toxicity, the European Commission has tagged glufosinate for an E.U.-wide phase out in 2017.
The majority vote Thursday by the European Parliament opposed the new GM corn, with 385 members against authorizing maize 1507, 201 in favor and 30 abstentions. The European Parliament then passed a resolution calling on the European Council to reject maize 1507.
The European Parliament resolution, however, is not a final decision on whether maize 1507 will be allowed in the E.U. On Friday national ministers in the European Council will begin to vote on the issue, getting closer to a final decision.
Regardless of whether this is marks the beginning of the end for maize 1507 in Europe, the Parliament’s attitude, however, reflects the attitude of many Europeans, who, according to a 2010 Eurobarometer poll, were generally (61 percent) opposed to the development of GMO food in Europe.