Italian GM product ban "is unjustified"

EU scientists says authorities have provided no scientific evidence of human health risks

Italy has provided no evidence that products derived from certain genetically modified (GM) maize varieties that it banned in August will harm human health, EU scientists said today. The opinion will be scrutinised first by a committee of member state officials and then by the European Commission, which could eventually rule that Italy's ban is illegal under EU law. The procedure marks the first time that a member state has invoked the "safeguard clause" under the 1997 novel foods regulation, which allows countries to ban already approved products if they can show new evidence of harm.

Italy's ban covers products derived from maize lines BT11, MON 910, MON 809 and T25. It claims that these should not have been regarded as "substantially equivalent" to non-GM products during the EU approvals process and therefore should have been subjected to a fuller safety evaluation (ENDS Daily 7 August). Italy's biotechnology industry denies the claim and recently sought European Commission support to overturn the ban (ENDS Daily 11 September).

In its opinion, the EU scientific committee on food reviews two documents provided by the Italian authorities to justify the prohibition decree. Both list a number of potential problems, but the first contains "no specific information" linking these to any of the products under consideration, while the second itself concludes that there is currently "no evidence" of risks to human health or animal welfare, the committee says.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, the EU scientific committee on food, and the committee's opinion on Italy's GM product ban notification.

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