GM food imports imminent

Related tags Maize European union Gm

New sources of GM ingredients are set to enter the European food
supply chain as EU agriculture ministers failed to reach a
qualified majority yesterday on the biotech maize Bt11 and its
entry into the bloc.

In the absence of a qualified majority under the 'Comitology procedure' the Commission is now free to carry the GM maize produced by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta to legal status, and to bring an end to the five-year European ban on new GM food sources.

"It is difficult to predict exactly, but I would imagine this [approval for Bt11] will be before the Commission in late May or early June,"​ a Commission spokesperson told a news conference on Monday.

Critics view the Commission's determination to push through approval of the new GM crop as caving into pressure from the US. Home to a massive GM farming industry the US has accused the EU's de facto moratorium on GM foods as an illegal barrier to trade, running to the World Trade Organisation to push for a dispute panel.

Yesterday's decision disappointed both consumer and biotech organisations alike.

"We think it is deplorable that national governments have not listened to public opinion,"​ Eric Gall of environmental organisation Greenpeace said to,​ referring to the ministers' failure to reach a 'no to Bt11' vote yesterday. The lobbying group said it would continue to 'mobilise' consumers to reject GMO's. One such effort saw the group last week launching the 'gene detectives' campaign whereby volunteers head to the supermarkets to identify GM ingredients in food products. Once identified the 'detectives' denounce the product and push the supermarket to remove the line from the shelves.

"We launched 'gene detectives' to coincide with the new GM labelling and traceability rules enforced in Europe last week,"​ said Gall. Rules that demand tough new labelling for GM ingredients in the supply chain and a monumental paper trail for the food industry.

But in light of the archly suspicious GM consumer, retailers have for the most part chosen the non-GM route. In 1997 French retailer Carrefour became the first supermarket to introduce a non-GMO policy, and the first to create a non-GMO suppy chain for soya.

Biotech body Europabio was also let-down by the ministers' vote, but for different reasons.

"We are disappointed that the Council failed to approve the sweet corn but now look to the EU Commission to move forward with a decision to approve this product,"​ said Johan Vanhemelrijck, secretary general of EuropaBio.

In 1998, some Member States said they would not approve any new products until new laws on traceability and labelling were in place. These rules came into force in the EU on 18th April. "We are disappointed that some Member States have not kept their side of the agreement despite the fact that all the conditions have been met," added Vanhemelrijck.

Related topics Policy Food Safety & Quality

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