Student - April 16, 2009

NO FAST-TRACK APPROVAL FOR CIS GENE POTATO

The Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment has refused to relax the rules on accepting cis gene plants because there is a theoretical chance that they will produce allergenic proteins.

This is a disappointment for Wageningen plant breeders. They believe that enriching crops with species-specific genes is a good way of cutting down pesticide use.

But the admission rules for cis gene plants are strict. The European Unions does not distinguish between cis gene and transgene plants, and wants genetic and toxicological research to rule out the environmental and public health risks of GMOs. The admission procedure in Europe costs an average of 6.8 million euros, and Wageningen UR’s market partners are reluctant to invest in this breeding programme.

Meanwhile, Wageningen plant scientist Professor Evert Jacobsen has sent the Ministry a risk analysis. This suggests that the chance of unintended effects is no bigger with cis genesis than it is with traditional breeding methods.

European member states are divided on the issue of genetic modification. Countries such as Austria and Hungary are categorically against GMOs. The Netherlands is for, with provisos. Minister Verburg of Agriculture has proposed that member states decide for themselves, so that a country such as the Netherlands gets the chance to experiment with the development of cis gene plants.

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