Farming News - EFSA unable to confirm safety of GM maize

EFSA unable to confirm safety of GM maize

25 Jun 2013


On Friday, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced that it could not reach a conclusion on the safety of a genetically modified maize variety submitted for approval by Swiss agribusiness Syngenta.


EFSA refused to release a verdict on Syngenta's GM 'maize 3272' and stated that the company had "failed to provide key information to allow a full risk assessment to take place." The health watchdog said it could not vouch for the safety of maize 3272 with regard to human and animal health, as a result of the shortcomings, but said it would be "unlikely to have any adverse effect on the environment."


The Authority's Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms said that, "as the application did not meet a number of minimum standards set out in EFSA's guidance documents [and] the comparative assessment of GM maize 3272 performed by the applicant was inadequate due to a lack of data," it could not perform an accurate risk assessment of the crop.


EFSA said the comparative assessment is the fundamental requirement for the risk evaluation of GMOs in the European Union (EU). The approach compares GM plants with their conventional counterparts – known as comparators. The basic assumption is that food and feed from conventionally-bred plants have a history of safe use and can therefore serve as a baseline for assessing GM plants.


EFSA said the plant variety chosen by Syngenta as a comparator was invalid and did not have a history of safe use. The authority said on Friday that it had asked for additional supporting information from Syngenta, but that "the information supplied by the company… again failed to meet the [assessment] criteria."


Maize 3272 has been altered to optimise ethanol production from the pant, for use in biofuels. Its application process for import and processing in Europe has been ongoing since 2006. Syngenta also wants residues left over after processing to be used in animal feed, and has sought approval for food use "in case of accidental mixing."


EFSA added, "A lack of data also meant the Panel was unable to fully conclude on the allergenicity of AMY797E - one of two newly expressed proteins in the GM plant. The applicant was asked to supply further information on two occasions."