Europe to vote on GM foods

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food standards agency, Maize

This afternoon food specialists from member states will vote on a
proposal to end Europe's five year moratorium on genetically
modified foods. A deeply-divided issue, the outcome of the vote
will either disappoint or delight.

Members of the EU's standing committee on the food chain and animal health will vote to authorise, or not, the placing on the market of a sweetcorn made from genetically modified maize Bt11.

If approved, the maize - supplied by Swiss company Syngenta - would be imported as a canned food product but not for planting. European retailers would not be able to sell it until mid-April. But Europe remains divided on the issue and observers predict that a clear vote in favour may be unlikely.

When asked at a press conference last week in Brussels which way Germany would vote the German agriculture minister Renate Kunast said: "Germany has yet to decide which way to vote on Monday and might even abstain."

The US in particular will be looking for a yes vote. Earlier this year the country took Europe's refusal to import GM foodstuffs to a dispute panel at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), claiming the bloc was an unfair trade barrier.

Juxtaposed to this are the anti-GM campaigners.

"The UK Food Standards Agency is gearing up to give the green light to a new genetically modified sweet corn. Friends of the Earth has condemned the FSA decision,"​ said the UK-based environmental group at the weekend.

One principal criticism of the organisation - also aired by other opponents to GM foods - is the suspicion that the Commission is trying to push the approval through on the back of the old Novel Food Regulations , "even though new laws improving the approval process become applicable in April".

"Safety tests required by the new laws have not been carried out such as assessing the effects on subsequent generations, cumulative toxic effects and the effects on the health sensitive consumers,"​ said Friends of the Earth.

Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow went further. "The Food Standards Agency is supposed to be the consumer's champion yet it is gearing up to wave through this controversial GM sweet corn, using out-dated laws, whilst serious question marks still remain over its safety.

British public opinion remains firmly opposed to eating GM food - 86 per cent said they would not be happy to eat GM food in the recent GM Nation?"

At the committee's last meeting in November, only six countries declared themselves in favour: Ireland, Britain, Finland, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands.

Related topics: Policy

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