More acres for GM food crops

Related tags Monsanto Maize Genetically modified food

Ministers in the EU recently blocked a move by biotech giant
Monsanto to launch a GM corn onto the market but finding a
favourable response in less cynical countries the firm said
yesterday that Argentina had given the green light.

The Argentinian government's approval for plantings of Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn, also known as NK603, could potentially reach 5 million acres, said the biotech giant.

But while consumers remain suspicious of genetically modified foodstuffs, most acutely demonstrated in Europe, the introduction of ingredients derived from the NK603 crops into food formulations is unlikely, despite tough new rules on labelling of GM ingredients now in place in the EU25.

Nonetheless, Monsanto said yesterday that the firm is looking forward to growth in the market. "The new approval in Argentina indicates that the major crop-producing countries around the world continue to recognise the safety and benefits of biotechnology agricultural products,"​ commented Brett Begemann from Monsanto.

In 2004, Monsanto's global biotech acres rose by 14 per cent to 172 million acres, up from 150 million acres in 2003.

Last year, a panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declared that NK603 was as safe as conventional maize but at a meeting in Luxembourg last month, EU 25 ministers refused to authorise the maize, which has been modified to tolerate Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

The decision has now bounced back to the Commission for clearance, and industry observers suggest Brussels will give the go ahead, particularly in light of its decision last month to allow imports of another biotech sweetcorn, Bt 11 from Swiss firm Syngenta.

NK603 maize is cleared for use in food in the US, South Africa, Australia, Canada and Japan. Non-GM maize, or corn, is grown commercially in over 100 countries, with a combined global harvest of 590 million metric tonnes. The major producers of maize in 2000 were the US, China, Brazil, Mexico, France, and Argentina.

Also this week, research scientists at the firms Ceres, Monsanto and DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International, working to sequence the maize genome, announced that their findings are now available online.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said that the maize sequencing information is now on a searchable database​ hosted at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

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