Ministers decide today on GM maize entry

Related tags Gm World trade organization European union Maize

A biotech battle will take place in Luxembourg today at a meeting
of EU15 agriculture ministers that could finally mark the end to
the GM ban in Europe, heralding the debut of a raft of GM foods.

Delayed in January, the decision to approve imports for food and feed - not cultivation - of the GM maize BT11 from Swiss biotech firm Syngenta will be hammered out by ministers within an anti-biotech European climate.

In 1998 the de facto moratorium was born when Europe stopped approving GM crops for food, feed and cultivation. If ministers give the green light today, Europe will open the barriers to new GM imports. Critics say that pressure from the US - home to a massive GM farming industry - has heavily influenced the Commission move to push through the new GM crops.

"There is no market for GM foods in Europe. Why should the consumer be bullied or cajoled into accepting it?"​ a spokesman for the environmental group Friends of the Earth said to in a previous report.

But for Romano Prodi, president of the Commission, the step is a logical one, based on science and risk, and made possible through tight new rules on GM food and feed that entered into force last week.

"The EU has put in place a clear, transparent and stringent system to regulate genetically-modified food, feed and plants. It is only logical that this safe system continues to be applied in practice and that the EU moves ahead with pending authorisations,"​ he commented.

If the ministers fail to reach a qualified majority either for or against on Bt 11, as seems likely with nation states divided on the issue, the Commission has the right to give the green light on the GM corn.

Europe has been under some pressure from the US - driven by US farmers branding the EU's ban as a barrier to trade - and the shadow of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute panel, set up last year at the instigation of the US, Canada and Argentina to settle the issue.

"With regard to the EU defence in the WTO panel, it is essential to ensure by all necessary means that EU legislation is complied with,"​ said Prodi.

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