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DECEMBER 4, 1998   8:01 AM
CONTACT: Greenpeace
Tommy Schweiger, Greenpeace EU, +32.2.280 1400
Isabelle Meister, Greenpeace Intl, +41.79.418 44 55
Mika Railo, Greenpeace Intl Press Desk, +31.20.5249 548
Medical Experts Consider Genetically Modified Maize Unacceptable
BRUSSELS - December 4 - A poll published in the latest issue of the Newsletter of the International Society of Chemotherapy (1) shows that a clear majority of medical experts working in the field of chemotherapy consider the presence of the antibiotic resistance gene within Novartis genetically modified maize (2) as an unacceptable risk. Greenpeace calls on the European Commission to listen to experts concerns and immediately ban the use of Novartis genetically modified maize.

Fifty-seven per cent of 198 experts from 25 different countries said that the risk was unacceptable, while 34 per cent recommended more risk assessment to be done before the maize can be cleared for full-scale use. Only two per cent of experts questioned estimated the maize to be safe. Greenpeace is collecting signatures of medical professionals worldwide for an open letter addressed to Novartis urging them to withdraw the genetically engineered maize from the markets. In Germany alone 1,300 doctors and other medical professionals have so far signed. The letter, which can be signed at the Greenpeace International website (3), will be delivered to Novartis early next year.

The major concern of experts is that the antibiotic resistance gene of Novartis maize could spread to disease-causing germs which would no longer be controlled with the antibiotic. "The European Commission has allowed Novartis genetically modified maize to be used in Europe against the concerns of the majority of the members states, the European Parliament and the European public", said Thomas Schweiger of Greenpeace. "They must now finally take the necessary precautionary measure and ban this product in Europe!"


1. Pechere J.C. Concerns about the presence of a b-lactamase gene in a transgenic maize. Newsletter of the International Society of Chemotherapy, 30 November 1998

2. Novartis genetically modified maize contains a gene which provides resistance against the antibiotic Ampicillin and a series of other antibiotics of the penicillin group. e.g. Penicillin G and Amoxycillin. Alone in Germany these antibiotics were prescribed twelve million times in 1996.

3. The Greenpeace open letter to Novartis can be found at this page



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