12:00 p.m. 20.May.99.PDT
The European Commission on Thursday halted the approval process
for US-produced, genetically altered corn because
the plant's pollen could threaten Monarch butterflies.
The policy freeze comes at a time when trade relations between
Europe and the United States have already suffered
setbacks. A conflict is also brewing over Europe's ban on US beef
produced with hormones.
The study, by researchers at Cornell University, was published in this
week's Nature magazine.
Scientists found that leaves dusted with pollen from genetically
modified "Bt maize," developed by American company
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, have been proven lethal to Monarch
The Commission further cautioned that similar products being used
in Europe, such as those produced by Monsanto
and Novartis, could also be in jeopardy.
"There's no way any new products can be approved where this
information might have ... any bearing on that approval
process," said Peter Jorgensen, spokesman for acting EU
Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard.
However, Jorgensen said that the Commission would not take a final
policy stance until its own scientists had combed
through the new research. Until then, the Commission would not ask
EU environment ministers, who are set to meet
next month, to decide whether to approve the Pioneer maize.
American biotech companies have complained that European
distrust of the emerging agricultural technology will cost
them millions of dollars.
Scientists spliced genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis
into the plant genes, making the corn plant resistant
to a European borer pest while keeping the corn safe for human
According to the study, US farmers planted more than 7 million
acres of the hybrid crop last year, primarily to control
the European corn borer.
Monsanto representative Tom McDermott said that the study should
be considered within the context. "One study can't
be treated as proof. We need to consider how the findings compare
with other evidence and how the Bt technology
compares with other means of controlling the same pest."
Pioneer, which is in the midst of being purchased by Dupont, was
not available for comment.
Reuters contributed to this story.
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Fax: +64 3 348-1867
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