Europe delays vote on GM sweetcorn, again

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Maize, European union, Genetically modified food, Gm

EU environment experts opt to delay a vote on the entry of a GM
sweetcorn into the European food chain, revealing ongoing divisions
between member states over biotech food ingredients,writes
Lindsey Partos.

Meeting on Monday, the regulatory committee was expected to vote on whether to allow imports of 1507 maize made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and Dow Agroscience unit Mycogen seeds.

But according to a Commission source, some member states present at the meeting said they wanted clarifications to the draft decision, proposed at the meeting, to be assessed by their experts prior to going ahead with a vote.

No new date has yet been set for the vote, the source confirmed.

This latest delay follows a string of similar cases that have marked the passage of other GM crops into green light status since the end of the de facto moratorium​ last year; driving home again how EU states are divided on the issue of biotech crops.

Up until January this year, the Commission had asked EU members nine times to vote on the authorisation of 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.

To date, only two crops, Bt11 sweetcorn from Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta whose approval broke the EU ban, and NK603 maize designed by biotech giant Monsanto, have been approved under regulation (EC) No 97/258 on novel foods, in May and October 2004 respectively.

On both occasions, approval was pushed through by the Commission, under an obscure facet of European law known as the 'comitology procedure'.

Critics of GM foods claim Brussels is caving into pressure from the US, the number one exporter of GM food crops. Brussels, in response, affirms the tough new laws on GM foodstuff labelling in Europe, some of the most stringent in the world, paved the way for entry of GM foods: by flagging up a GM ingredient on the food label, and therefore placing the decision to buy the product firmly in the hands of the consumer.

Parallel to the decision to clear, or not, the import of 1507 maize for food and feed are talks to clear the way for its cultivation on European soil. Meeting with strong opposition from environmental groups, there are proposals to allow the cultivation of maize 1507, a decision that now lies with the ministers of the member states.

The 'pro' camp was given a boost last week after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in its first ever assessment on GM crop growing, cleared the 1507 maize.

Related topics: Policy

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