Positive Environment News

Hungary Bans Monsanto GMO Maize Seeds

Date: 20-Jan-05
Country: HUNGARY
Author: David Chance

The Agriculture Ministry said it had banned MON 810 maize seed planting pending tests to establish whether GM crops contaminate other crops and said old stocks must be destroyed, although it will continue to allow GMO maize in food production.

"The temporary measure bans the production, use, distribution and import of hybrids...deriving from the MON 810 maize line," the ministry said in a statement.

MON 810 is allowed in the European Union, but individual countries currently have discretion over whether to allow it and other gene-altered crops.

No GMO crops are grown in Hungary at present and the Hungarian ban on MON 810 will come into force on Thursday and remain until tests are completed.

Anti-GMO campaigners say the technology is not proven and that it could contaminate other crops, while the industry says it vastly benefits consumers and there is no evidence of contamination from numerous trials of the crops.

Monsanto said two maize variants based on MON 810 had been awaiting approval in Hungary and that the ban was not justified, adding that Hungary had made a unilateral decision and did not appear to have consulted the European Commission.

Brussels-based Monsanto spokesman Daniel Rahier said the company did not believe that the issue of the co-existence of GMO and non-GMO crops could be used to justify a ban.

"The ban was a great disappointment for us, there was no condition which required this action, no one wanted to import genetically modified corn seed into Hungary," said Mihaly Czepo, who deals with biotechnology issues for the company in Hungary.

The ministry said the Monsanto hybrid will still be allowed to ship across Hungary, although packages must not be opened, nor the seed modified in any way, the ministry said.

"The ban applies to seed producers and distributors as well as farmers," the ministry said.

Hungary is a major grains producer and had a bumper harvest in 2004 of 16.7 million tonnes of grain, up 90.5 percent on the previous year, and much of that is exported to the European Union.

Maize output alone was 8.3 million tonnes in 2004.

Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg have bans on particular products -- three GMO maize varieties and two types of rapeseed.

Opponents of the technology have expressed concern that the new European Union countries, many of them relatively poor ex-communist countries, could provide a back door for GMO food production, something the industry has denied.

Poland allows the import of GMO maize and is in the process of passing a law which would allow for growing of GMO maize in Poland, which is expected to be voted on in parliament this year.

Romania, also a big grains producer which hopes to join the EU in 2007, allows genetically modified soya and is keen to expand GMO food production.

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