Austria is to ban a second genetically modified crop variety that has full EU marketing approval, consumer affairs minister Barbara Prammer announced yesterday. The move follows last week's publication of research suggesting that maize engineered to express a toxin gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) harms butterflies (ENDS Daily 21 May). Ms Prammer's announcement concerns a variety of maize developed by Monsanto (MON 809) that contains the Bt gene. In 1997, Austria banned a GM maize variety developed by Novartis (then called Ciba Geigy) that also had EU marketing approval (ENDS Daily 6 February 1997), raising a legal challenge that the EU has still not managed to resolve. "This decision will be reversed only when producers succeed in proving that this type of GM crop is not harmful for the environment", she said. Following last week's new research findings, the European Commission decided to postpone a final EU decision on whether to approve a variety made by Pioneer Hi-Bred that is almost identical to MON 809. Environmental groups have welcomed Austria's decision, seeing it as a necessary complement to halting the approval process for the Pioneer maize. Greenpeace called yesterday for all EU governments to agree a general moratorium on commercial releases of GM organisms at next month's Environment Council meeting.
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