Science in Society Archive

Austria Raises Hell over GM Safety

ISP members, Susan Bardocz, Mae-Wan Ho and Arpad Pusztai among others, briefed representatives of the Austrian government and Austrian ngos in a workshop held in Vienna last November. One of the Austrian government representatives, Josef Hoppichler, subsequently breifed the US-Embassy in Austria. The US Embassy staff were so impressed that Hoppichler's briefing was translated and circulated by the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service under Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN). This circular is reproduced below.

Voluntary Report - public distribution

Date: 2/2/2004
GAIN Report Number: AU4002

Austria Biotechnology - Austrian Observations on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture 2004

Approved by: Robert H. Curtis, U.S. Embassy, Vienna

Prepared by: Josef Hoppichler

Report Highlights:

Following is a summary of the criticisms and questions Austrian consumers and scientists raise while discussing Biotechnology. This was translated from an Austrian Power Point presentation. The Austrians are proud and protective of their mountain agriculture and their organic crop production. Until we can answer these questions, or sell Biotech products that provide immediate consumer benefits, the Biotech promotion issue in Austria, and neighboring countries, will be frustrated. Answers or replies to any of these observations, official or unofficial, are welcomed. Biotech opponents believe that the Biotech industry is unable to adequately respond to these observations.

Critical Observations Regarding the Use of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture and Food

By Josef Hoppichler, Federal Institute for Less-Favored and Mountainous Areas

Our knowledge of Biotechnology does not even amount to one pico-percent ...


(Pryme I, 2003. In-vivo studies on possible health consequences of GM-Food a. Feed, Nutrition and Health, 2003, Vol. 17, pp. 1-8. Despite the fact that the world is full of scientific opinions on the non-hazardous nature of GM-food, "there is only very limited data on the safety of GM-food." (Domingo JL (2000), Health risks of genetically modified foods: many opinions but few data, Science, 288, 1748-1749)

(Mae-Wan Ho, Transgenic Lines Proven Unstable, Collonier C. et al., Characterization of commercial GMO inserts: a source of useful material to study genome fluidity.

(Cf. e.g. Kawata M., Pacific Ecologist, Nov. 2003:

(SPÖK A., HOFER H., VALENTA R., KIENZL-PLOCHBERGER K., LEHNER P., GAUGITSCH H.: Toxikologie und Allergologie von GVO-Produkten (Toxicology and Allergology of GMO-products), Monographien Band 109, UBA (Federal Environment Agency), Wien (Vienna) 2002.

(Yousef MI. et al., J Environ Sci Health B. 1995, July 30(4): 513-34; Walsh LP. et al., Roundup inhibits steroidogenesis by disrupting steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein expression, Environ Health Perspect. 2000, Aug. 108(8): 769-76)

(Garry VF. et al, Birth Defects, Season of Conception, and Sex of Children Born to Pesticide Applicators Living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, USA, Environ Health Perspect. 2002, 110 Suppl. 3:441-9)

GMOs cannot be contained - coexistence is impossible in small-scale farming structures!


(Cf. e.g. R.C. Van Acker et al, GM/non-GM what co-existence in Canada: Roundup Ready what as a case study.

(Cf. e.g. AEBC (2003), Coexistence and Liability Report,

The Precautionary Principle:

Scientific opinions are extremely weakly founded, "... there is no evidence to indicate that the placing on the market ... is (not) likely to cause adverse effects on human and animal health and the environment."

Even opinions of leading scientific bodies contain mistakes:

The opinion on T25 maize of the EU-SCP, for example, has been corrected:

"... and the herbicide tolerance trait should not transfer to any other varieties of cultivated maize" had to be removed, which is why the opinion was published twice. ("To err is human")

In developing its environmental policy, the Community takes into account

  1. the available scientific and technical data;
  2. the environmental conditions of the individual regions of the Community;
  3. the economic and social development of the Community on the whole as well as the balanced development of its regions.

Further Demands: proportionate; non-discriminating; harmonized with measures previously taken; based on cost-benefit evaluations; constantly examined as to the scientific background; clear regulations regarding the burden of proof; questions as to reversibility.

Hormone administration to farm animals, rBST, BSE (mad cow disease), ... but also the multi-dimensional structure of European agriculture and the multi-functional requirements, i.e. strong overlapping of agricultural and living spaces.

Prospects for non-GM Areas

  1. in order to link the protection of biodiversity with sustainable agriculture (no release in nature protection zones; cf. FSE in GB)
  2. in order to provide development areas for organic farming
  3. in order to make available consolidated areas for non-GM seed production
  4. in order to guarantee a non-GM preservation of plant genetic resources
  5. as balancing and regeneration areas in case of unforeseen developments

Letter by Tom Daschle (U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader, November, 2001) in the course of the ITPGR negotiations:

"Finally, any damages caused to farmers through lower prices, lost markets or contamination due to genetically modified products should be reimbursed by the company producing any such product."

Article first published 10/02/04

Got something to say about this page? Comment

Comment on this article

Comments may be published. All comments are moderated. Name and email details are required.

Email address:
Your comments:
Anti spam question:
How many legs does a duck have?

Recommended Reading

search | sitemap | contact
© 1999 - 2019