No favours for the US: Herculex RW not approved for import

[img_assist|nid=141|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=99|height=43]Only less than two months after Greenpeace had detected illegal contamination of maize pellets in the harbour of Rotterdam, the EU commission tried to solve the problem by approving the maize Herculex RW (59122) as feed and food. The Standing Committee however did not agree with that on Monday.
In April, illegal contamination was detected in US maize in the harbours of Rotterdam and Dubin: maize feed was contaminated with the GM maize Herculex RW (DAS-59122) that is not approved in the EU. Contamination with this maize is therefore forbidden - no matter how big that contamination is.

The EU Commission then surprisingly fast tried to solve the problem: On monday 25 June, less then two months after Herculex RW was detected, the EU commission asked the Standing Committee for Foodchain and Animal Safety to approve of the import of this maize as food and feed. Just for a number of other GM crops, the application for Herculex RW EU import as feed had already been handed in a while ago, but the fact that the EU Commission decided to put Herculex RW on the agenda at this moment seem to be related to the latest findings. If the import of Herculex RW would be allowed, then contamination would only be a question of labelling and contaminated maize shipments would not anymore be send back to the US or destroyed by EU authorities.

Fortunately that did not happen. In the days before the Committee meeting, it looked liked for the first time there could be a qualified majority in favour of the import of a GM crop. This was even more surprisingly because there are open questions about the safety of Herculex RW. In the Netherlands as well as in other EU countries, efforts were made in the last week to raise awareness about the issue. In the end, the Netherlands voted in favour, but other countries changed their mind. As before with other GM crops, there was no real decision but a so-called 'non-decision': not enough countries were in favour and not enough against. The decision now lies with the Council of Ministers. It is expected to take at least another six months. Until then, Herculex RW is in any case forbidden in the EU.

Meanwhile, Pioneer Hi-Bred is still planning to grow Herculex RW in the Netherlands as part of a field trial with herbicide tolerant GM maize NK603. Herculex RW (59122) is genetically modified to produce two Bt toxins against the maize root worm, a soil insect. Little is know about these toxins (Cry34B1 and Cry35Ab1) because in contrast to Bt toxins against the European stem borer it is meant to be act in the soil. In addition, feeding studies show that Herculex RW might be toxic on the longer term. Rootworm is not present in the Netherlands, but the insect is spreading in Europa since it was introduced in Europe through maize imports to the Balkan several years ago. Pioneer Hi-Bred wants to test hybrids between NK603 and Herculex RW as well as other GM maize events on three locations in the Netherlands.

Originanlly posted on