THE delay in the European Union's decision on the marker gene nptII used in BASF's genetic potato Amflora could deprive farmers and the potato starch industry of €100-200 million in income as commercial cultivation for 2009 has been ruled out as a result.
The lack of progress by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), said Dr Stefan Marcinowski, member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF SE, ‘can only be explained by EU Commissioners' political motivations dominating the approval process. This indicates that BASF was right to initiate legal action against the EU Commission for failure to act in July this year'.
The chemical giant says all scientific evidence shows that Amflora is safe but in December the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released information stating it will not complete its opinion on nptII by December 15 as previously announced.
The EU Commission has granted EFSA a second extension to March 31, 2009.
After its orientation debate on genetically modified organisms in May, the EU Commission again did not approve Amflora but decided to ask EFSA for a fifth safety assessment that concerns Amflora.
The focus of the assessment is the nptII marker gene used in a number of genetically modified plants, including Amflora. At the same time, the Commission announced that it would approve Amflora ‘if and when' the marker gene would again be evaluated safe. The initial deadline for the opinion, September 30, 2008, was already extended to December 15 earlier this year.
BASF is determined to continue the approval process and expects EFSA to confirm its four earlier assessments, stating that Amflora and its genetic marker are safe for humans, animals, and the environment since there is no new scientific evidence questioning earlier assessments.
"If the Commission is serious about supporting our fragile economy, it should promote promising technologies such as plant biotechnology that make Europe more competitive," said Marcinowski.
"Instead, it is forcing companies through more than 12 year long approval processes. We expect the market for genetically modified crops to be worth $50 billion per year by 2025. If Europe continues to ignore the vast scientific evidence that says the technology is safe, other continents will benefit from this booming sector."