Dr N. sends the good news that though BASF’s genetically modified potato project gained approval at EU level in 2010, it has been a commercial failure. German chemical firm BASF has announced it is now halting the development of all its GM potato varieties in Europe. The company is also dropping research into GM “nutritionally enhanced corn” in the US.
The Amflora potato did not appeal to European consumers and farmers, according to BASF’s Jennifer Moore-Braun, and were only being grown on a two-hectare site in Germany.
BASF, which had been seeking EU approval for three other GM varieties, is to move its biotech headquarters to America, and has now decided to ‘walk away from Europe’ altogether, according to the BBC’s environment correspondent, Matt McGrath.
Lack of political support – really?
BASF seems unwilling to acknowledge that there is no market for the products. “No-one from the political side supported (Amflora). There were no signals from the European Commission that any change was likely,” Ms Moore-Braun told BBC News.
McGrath adds that the BASF move comes at a time when several recent reports indicate that the new EU health commissioner, Tonio Borg, might seek a freeze on the approval of new GM crops until at least 2014.
At present, any crop approved at EU level can be grown anywhere in the Union unless countries have specific scientific reasons for blocking it. Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland – have used this provision to stop the technology.
However, as Pete Riley from GM Freeze reminds us, the EU Commission continues to be under pressure from the US and the World Trade Organisation to lift the ban on the technology.
More cheeringly, in an informative press release, he adds: “Conventional plant breeders can now get on with developing conventional potatoes for industrial uses or with blight resistance, for which there is a clear market, as they have for many years”.