ECONOMY

Greenpeace set to urge Romania to prohibit the cultivation of GMO maize

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Environmental group Greenpeace said yesterday it would urge Romania’s government to ban the cultivation of gene-spliced maize from next year, in a bid to prevent widespread contamination of its main crop. The MON 810 maize hybrid, produced by biotech giant Monsanto, is allowed in the European Union, but individual member states currently have discretion over whether to allow it and other gene-altered crops. Last year, neighboring Hungary, which joined the wealthy bloc in 2004, became the first country in Eastern Europe to ban GMO maize. Romania, once known as the breadbasket of central Europe, is scheduled to join the EU in 2007. It is a major grains producer and had a bumper harvest of around 10 million tons of maize last year. «We prepared the arguments and documentation for the government to ban the cultivation and import of the MON 810 and its hybrids,» Greenpeace activist Gabriel Paun told reporters. «This could be the biggest genetic danger for Romania after gene-spliced soya slipped out of control,» he added. Anti-GMO campaigners say the technology is not proven safe and that it could contaminate other crops, while the industry says it vastly benefits consumers and there is no evidence of contamination from numerous trials of the crops. Greenpeace says there is no way to stop GMO crops from spreading because of crossbreeding, cross-pollination and illegal trade. The government has banned the cultivation of biotech soya from next year. Gene-spliced soy, which is used by Romanian farmers as animal feed, is the only GMO crop cultivated in Romania and accounts for around 90 percent of overall output. Uncontrolled seed trading is common in Romania, whose farmland has been a patchwork of plots whose ownership has been contested since Stalinist collectivization was scrapped after the 1989 fall of communism.