European Commission approves 11 more GMOs for food/feed

September 16, 2016 by Staff Reporter

The European Commission has authorised the sale of food and feed products containing, consisting of, or produced from 11 new varieties of GMO maize.

The approval includes GM maize Bt11 x MIR162 x MIR604 x GA21, which, in addition to other traits, produces its own insecticide and is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.

It also includes six related types of GM maize, each of which combines two separate genetic modifications (Bt11 × MIR162Bt11 × MIR604Bt11 × GA21MIR162 × MIR604MIR162 × GA21 and MIR604 × GA21) as well as a further four related types of GM maize, each of which combines three separate GM genetic modifications (Bt11 × MIR162 × MIR604Bt11 × MIR162 × GA21Bt11 × MIR604 × GA21MIR162 × MIR604 × GA21),

All of these GM maize varieties are produced by Syngenta and contain what is known as ‘stacked’ traits. This means that the producers have modified the genome of the plant in multiple ways – as opposed to creating a plant with one GM trait – for example, glyphosate resistance.

Unexpected effects from ‘stacking’

Stacking traits is controversial from a consumer point of view because, as available evidence shows, it can cause unexpected effects, including synergistic effects, which are not routinely looked for in regulatory authorisations. Thus, although the EC says that these GMOs have gone through a full authorisation procedure, including a favourable scientific assessment by the European food Safety Authroty (EFSA) the regulators will not have been looking for any extra effects.

In addition, EFSA does not require animal feeding studies with the complete stacked trait crop – only with the single-trait GM parent varieties. This seems an important omission in a crop that has been approved as a food for human and animal consumption since:

  • Entire metabolic pathways can be changed in a stacked-trait GM crop, with potential for compromising their safety
  • Stacking can introduce new toxins, allergens or altered nutritional values that are not being monitored

The GMOs approved today had received a “no opinion” vote from the Member States in both the Standing and Appeal Committees – this means that no qualified majority, either in favour or against, was expressed. The decision comes on the heels the approval of 17 GMO crops in the EU for food and feed use in April 2015. With these new approvals there are now 86 GMOs authorised in the EU for food and feed uses.

These crops are not approved for cultivation in the EU but the authorisation decision, which is valid for 10 years, will allow their import and their inclusion into commercial products – subject to the EU’s current labelling and traceability rules.