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April 27, 2008

Grece renews, expands GM seed maize ban

Greece on April 23 renewed its ban on genetically modified maize produced by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto Co., expanding it to include 70 types of seed.

Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kondos said the three-year-old ban on the sale and cultivation of MON810 seeds was extended for two more years.

"The new decision ... is based on the same solid scientific and legal basis (as the last one), but includes new scientific data and findings," Kondos said. "These data concern a potential threat to human health and to the beekeeping industry."

Experts fear pollen from biotech crops, carried by bees, could adversely affect swarms. Greece has some 27,000 beekeepers and accounts for an estimated 16 percent of European Union honey production.

Despite pressure from the European Union, Greece has implemented and extended bans on the MON810 strain since April 2005. The initial ban included 17 types.

"We absolutely oppose the circulation of genetically modified organisms," Kondos said. He said the European Union should allow members states "enough time" to assess the threat from the cultivation of genetically modified seeds.

Genetically modified crops are a touchy issue in the EU. The European Food Safety Authority ruled in 2004 that genetically modified products do not constitute a risk to human health or the environment. But some EU governments _ including Austria, France, Greece, Luxembourg and Germany - are wary of biotechnology and are fighting to keep the crops from their fields and out of their supermarkets.

"Internationally, there is no study showing that biotech products do not harm humans and the environment," Kondos said.

The Greek branch of Greenpeace staged a small protest April 23, urging Kondos to include biotech cotton seeds in its ban.

Sydney Morning Herald

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