EU grants Monsanto GM approval

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Maize Monsanto

Monsanto has won permission to import and market three of its
genetically modified (GM) maize types across the EU for 10 years,
despite fierce opposition from some Member States.

The three products are GA21, a herbicide-resistant maize; MON 863, modified to be resistant to the corn rootworm insect and a hybrid cross between MON 863 and another Monsanto maize strain MON 810, also engineered to resist corn rootworm and other field pests such as caterpillars.

Both the GA21 and MON863 strains are for use in food and food ingredients, while the hybrid maize is for use in industrial processing.

"Monsanto welcomes the European Commission's ruling on YieldGard Rootworm (MON863) corn technology and their affirmation of the safety of YieldGard Rootworm corn for use in food products,"​ said Jerry Hjelle, vice president of regulatory affairs for Monsanto.

YieldGard Rootworm corn contains a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (a common soil microbe) that specifically targets corn rootworm larvae, allowing the corn plant to naturally protect its roots against the damaging corn rootworm. The corn rootworm has earned the nickname the "billion-dollar pest" as the USDA estimates that this pest causes $1 billion in lost revenue annually to the US corn crop alone.

The US biotech giant said that YieldGard Plus is currently under review by the EU for use in food and food ingredients.

The Commission reached this decision unilaterally. When EU farm ministers fail to reach a consensus view on such matters, the Commission can adopt its own proposed decision, as in this case.

Since August, the Commission has authorised imports of three other GMO products in this way. This of course has outraged environmentalists and Member States opposed to GM crops.

Speaking at a conference at the International Green Week in Berlin, environmental pressure group Greenpeace said it had "collected enough data from around the world to be able to say that (Monsanto's products) should have never been approved in the first place.

"Recent Greenpeace research in Romania has exposed the fact that since the company has introduced GM soy, things have gone totally out of control,"​ said Susanne Fromwald from Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.

In addition, Member States such as Luxembourg, Greece and Austria consistently vote against GMO approvals and will not be happy. Every EU meeting on the approval of new GMO products ends in deadlock - the last time anything was agreed upon was in 1998.

Biotech groups such as Monsanto however believe that such decisions indicate a positive future for GM crops. The firm also recently reported strong first quarter sales, largely on the back of a good performance from its seeds and genomics segment.

According to the company, a key driver for the quarter was stronger-than-expected purchases of GM herbicides in the United States, Europe and Argentina.

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