EC forces through GM industrial potato
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
The announcement by the EC that they have approved BASF’s GM starch altered potato for cultivation to produce starch to be used by industry has been described as a “bad and ill informed decision” by GM Freeze. The pulp remaining after the starch has been extracted will be allowed fed to animals following a parallel decision also announced by the Commission. Products produced from livestock fed the GM potato pulp will not be required to be labelled under EU traceability and labelling laws. There is already widespread support for labelling and this is another example of how the EC is ignoring public opinion and denying choice. Several non-GM starch altered potatoes are already on the market demonstrating that there is no need for GM varieties - the most recent being the Emsland Group’s announcement in September 2009 that it planned to start processing high amylopectin potatoes (starch altered) developed using classical breeding in their production plants.
The EC decision in controversial because it is based on advice from The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) regarding the use of antibiotic resistant marker (ARM) genes, which has been challenged by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). GM Freeze is also concerned about the overall testing of feed safety, for instance the lack of attention to the presence of novel chemicals arising from genetic engineering events. The EU policy is to avoid using ARMs for antibiotics which are used in human or veterinary medicine. The ARM gene in these potatoes confers resistance to kanamycin. Although this is from a group of antibiotic resistant genes approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for use as markers in GM crops, the EMA has challenged EFSA’s opinion based on the potential importance of this group of antibiotics in medicine. The concern is that the ARMs genes could horizontally transfer to pathogenic bacterium in the guts of humans or animals, worsening the problem of antibiotic resistance in treating a range of infections.