EFSA says GM oilseed rape unlikely to cause harm

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Genetically modified organism Canola Efsa

EFSA has issued its opinion that Bayer's GM oilseed rape is
unlikely to have a detrimental effect on human or animal health or
the environment when used for food and feed uses.

The GM oilseed rape variety known as T45, which is designed to be tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium, is meant for cultivation in the oilseed-growing areas of the United States. Bayer Crop Science applied for approval for the variety in 2005. Its application covers food and animal feed uses, including importing and processing, but does not include cultivation. Rapeseed oil, also known as canola, is one of the healthiest edible oils in a diet, since it has an extremely low level of saturated fatty acids. It also has many other industrial and cosmetic uses, such as in suntan oil. The positive opinion from EFSA in the context of the GM oilseed rape's intended uses does not mean that the variety will automatically be approved, however. A consultation on the opinion is open for the next month, whereafter the final go-ahead can only be granted by the European Commission. In the past, this has proved a stickling point as some member states remain staunchly against genetic modification. However the main area of controversy has been over approval for cultivation of GM crops in Europe. At present only GM maize (Monsanto and Bayer) is authorised for cultivation in Europe, though some states are facing a legal challenge because they have decided not to allow the cultivation. T45 is genetically modified to express an enzyme called phosphinothricin acetyl-transferase (PAT), which makes the plant tolerant to glucosinate ammonium herbicides. EFSA said that T45 is compositionally and phenotypically equivalent to non-GM rape, apart from the one introduced trait. Consequently, it said it was "of the opinion that there is no need for a specific labelling."​ In addition to the new application on the use of T45 in food and feed products, Bayer also submitted an application for an earlier approval relating to the same crop to be renewed. This covered T45 as existing products - that is food additives and feed materials produced from the GM variety. EFSA's opinion stands for both applications. In January EFSA said it is working with member states to update risk assessment guidance for GMOs to bring it in line with scientific progress and provide more in-depth advice. More than 60 GMO experts from national regulatory risk assessment bodies came together in November to discuss the best scientific approaches for evaluating the safety of GMOs at national and European level. Although he would not specify the final outcome of the process, Steve Pagani, head of EFSA 's press office, told FoodNavigator.com: "We want to draw together the best scientific minds and look at the different methodologies available to see if there are other ways to do it." ​ While EFSA's guidelines remain voluntary, all member states showed that they refer to them, and there were no indications that national risk assessment documents differ from internationally accepted guidance.

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