EU: GM Monsanto corn vote delayed

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Genetically modified food, Gm

Divisions in Europe over allowing imports of genetically modified
food ingredients clearly in evidence earlier this week when an EU
regulatory committee postponed a vote on the entry of a Monsanto
crop.

The herbicide-resistant maize, known as GA21, is designed for use as an ingredient in food processing, not for growing.

EU food safety experts had gathered to vote on whether the crop should be cleared for use in the member states. But officials said that the vote was cancelled, pending further scientific data.

IN 1999 Monsanto's GA21 maize line received a favourable opinion from the now defunct Scientific Committee on Food, whose responsibilities are now under the European Food Safety Authority.

Facing the fury of anti-GM campaigners, early last year the European Commission broke the de facto moratorium on GM foods, and pushed through approval for a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta to enter the food chain. The first approval of a GM foodstuff since 1998.

While consumer groups complained that Brussels was caving into pressure from the US, the main global exporter of GM crops, the Commission argued that tough new rules on traceability and labelling of GM foodstuffs had cleared the way for the re-launch of approvals.

But EU states are divided. The Commission has, to date, asked EU members nine times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product. In eight cases, there was no agreement and in the ninth, the deadlock around the table resulted in the vote being postponed.

Last month, European environment ministers failed to back a proposal to bring a GM food crop designed by US biotech giant Monsanto onto the EU market.

At a council meeting in December the ministers were unable to reach a majority decision on a Commission proposal to approve the importation and feed use of Monsanto's GT73 GM oilseed rape into the EU.

The European Commission asked ministers to take a decision after member state experts failed to reach an agreement in June.

Under an obscure facet of the law known as the 'comitology procedure', Brussels could actually push the GT73 food crop, already cleared a risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), through to law because the council has failed to reach a majority decision. Observers believe the Commission may opt to take this path.

Related topics: Policy, Food Safety & Quality

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