EU gives go ahead for GM spud to be grown

Brussels has given the go ahead for genetically modified potatoes to be cultivated in Europe.

It is the first time in 12 years that a new variety has been authorised for cultivation and BASF, the creator of the starch producing Amflora variety, said planting could begin in 2010.

The decision to approve the variety was taken by health commissioner John Dalli who said the Amflora potato would be grown for industrial starch to make paper products. By-products from the potato have also been approved for use as an animal feed.

A commission statement said that the potatoes would be grown under “strict cultivation conditions” that would prevent any potatoes being left in the field after harvest. This would prevent dissemination of the GM trait into the wider environment, the commission added.

But anti-GM campaigners were not appeased by the controls and have reacted angrily to the news.

Friends of the Earth said that the commissioner had let the public down.

“The commissioner has ignored public opinion and safety concerns,” said FoE GM spokesman Heike Moldenhauer, “This is a bad day for for European citizens and the environment.”

“The decision to approve the Amflora variety by the European Food Safety Authority was not unanimous,” Mr Moldenhauer said.

The Amflora potato carries a controversial antibiotic resistant gene. It cannot be guaranteed that this will not enter the food chain, he added.

Mr Dalli has also announced that moves would be made by this summer to apply the subsidiarity principle to EU approved GM varieties. The move would hand Member States more control over whether or not to allow GM’s to be grown within their borders.