EU lifts extra GMO controls on US corn

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

The European Commission has lifted extra controls on imports of US
corn products for unauthorised genetically modified material,
claiming that these are no longer necessary.

Member States yesterday voted in favor of lifting the EU requirement for all imports of US corn gluten feed and brewers grain to be certified as free from the GMO Bt10.

Bt10 is very similar to authorised corn strain Bt11, but has not been approved for use in food or feed in the EU. Its presence is therefore illegal in imports.

Last year, Swiss biotech firm Syngenta, which developed Bt10, warned it had accidentally sold the illegal GMO corn in the US for four years, resulting in about 133 million kilogrammes of the maize making its way into food and feeds. As a result, the European Commission introduced control measures in April 2005 to certify that imports are free of Bt10.

At the time, the EC estimated that about 1,000 metric tons of the unauthorised GMO corn, all grown in the US, had entered member states through animal feed, corn flour and corn oil.

Syngenta has now taken a series of measures to ensure that this GMO is no longer propagated, resulting in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health agreeing yesterday with the Commission that the emergency measures against Bt10 are no longer necessary.

However, as a precautionary measure Member States must continue to carry out random testing for BT10 at the current level for 6 months. Should any traces be detected, the national authorities must immediately send a notification through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed.

When Bt10 contamination in the US came to light, Syngenta provided safety data to the relevant authorities in the United States (US Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration).

The novel proteins produced by Bt10 were compared with those from Bt11 and it was concluded that they were identical. The US authorities announced that it was therefore satisfied that no safety concern existed.

Both varieties produce a bacterial toxin that kills insects, using the same inserted gene and producing the same protein. The only difference is the location of the inserted gene, Syngenta claims. But Bt10 remains illegal in the EU nonetheless.

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