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EU mashes GM potato plan

BASF's Amflora off the menu

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The European Union's Council of Ministers last week delivered a serious blow to biotech companies' ambitions to roll out GM crops across the region by postponing a decision on the "commercial optimisation" of BASF's Amflora "genetically optimised potato".

According to the Telegraph, the German EU presidency canned a European Commission proposal to release the Amflora - developed by BASF for "use in industrial starch" - when it became clear that "a bloc of countries led by Austria, Greece, and Luxembourg would vote against it".

The decision was made ahead of last week's Europe's environment ministers' shindig. Although the EU lifted a moratorium on the commercial exploitation of GM crops 2004, none have been cleared for cultivation since 1998.

An official said: "It became clear that there was no way to get a majority for the first approval of a GM crop since 1998, so it has been taken off the agenda." A Brussels mandarin added: "Nine years after the moratorium we do not look any closer to authorising new GM crops for harvesting."

Greenpeace said of the announcement: "Consumers, most of whom have no desire to eat GM produce, expect politicians to put their health, food, safety, and the environment before the vested interests of a few agro-chemical companies."

BASF has stood by the safety of the Amflora spud, citing the European Food Standards Authority which has "repeatedly stated that Amflora is for humans, animals and the environment as safe as any conventional potato". ®

Bootnote

BASF describes the Amflora thus:

A genetically optimised potato, producing pure amylopectin starch, ideal for technical applications.

Conventional potatoes produce a mixture of amylopectin and amylose starch. For many technical applications, such as in the paper, textile, and adhesives industries, only amylopectin is needed; separating the two starch components is uneconomical. Amflora produces pure amylopectin starch and thus helps to safe resources, energy and costs. Moreover: Paper produced with amylopectin starch has a higher gloss. Concrete and adhesives can be processed for a longer period of time.

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