Luxembourg to Ban GM Maize Cultivation

3 April 2009

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is scheduled to become the fifth EU country to effectively ban cultivation of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) crop MON810. The microstate made the decision after recent national studies failed to conclude that the crop as ‘completely innocuous'.

The move comes after two failed attempts in as many months by the European Commission (EC) to lift controversial bans from the four other EU nations prohibiting cultivation of the GM crop. Despite being deemed save by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), France, Greece, Austria, Hungary, and now Luxembourg have independently resisted pressure from Brussels (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 20 February 2009, http://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/biores/news/ec-fails-to-lift-gm-maize-bans-in-france-greece and 6 March 2009, http://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/biores/news/biofuels-conference-looks-toward-global-market-development).

In the past, the WTO has urged the EU to take action, arguing that national bans are effectively denying market access allowed under trade rules to countries using biotechnology in agriculture. However, Marco Coniero of Greenpeace EU GMO policy director argues that EU nations must protect their citizens with these bans.

"Last year, EU ministers called for a re-think in the way GM crops are assessed in Europe," Contiero said. "Faced with the Commission's reticence to take these concerns on board, EU countries have no other choice but to protect their citizens and their environment with national bans."

Luxembourg's main agricultural products are barley, oats, potatoes, wheat, fruits, and grapes for wine - the agricultural sector takes up 27 percent of the work force and 50 percent of the country's arable land.

Activist organisation Greenpeace has been active in the country's anti-GM movement. In February, the organisation was instrumental in an initiative that had the city of Luxembourg declare itself a ‘GMO-free city'. Results of a recent survey show that 83 percent of Luxembourg's population is against the use of biotechnology.

The current EU system of approving agriculture biotechnology came after some EU member states pushed back against the decision to give a green light to MON810 in 1998, which to the development of a new legal framework. This allows the EU to approve GM crops throughout the EU, providing no scientific evidence showing health or environmental dangers is presented.

Insect-resistant MON810 is currently the only GM crop approved for planting in the EU. Of all 27 member countries accessible to GM crops, only 7 harvest the GM crop within their borders.

ICTSD Reporting; "EU, Luxembourg to ban MON810 maize too," NEWSFOOD.COM, 24 March 2009; "Luxembourg, European capital, declared ‘GMO-free city'," GREENPEACE, February 2009.

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