GM maize approvals stumble at EU hurdles

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gm crops European union Maize

The ping-pong of approvals for GM crops in Europe played another round yesterday, when the Commission failed to reach agreement on MIR604 and a Council vote on three others was inconclusive.

Approval of new GM crops in Europe is a long, drawn out process, made more complex by fierce divisions of opinion between member states which make it nigh on impossible to reach common agreement across the bloc.

The Commission’s failure to reach agreement on MIR604, a Syngenta insect-resistant maize, comes as no surprise. For over a decade approvals for all GM crops approved for import and/or cultivated in the EU, whether for food or food use, have gone through the default process of a decision by the Commission, once all avenues of agreement have been exhausted.

In July the European Food Safety Authority published its opinion of MIR604. Its GMO panel concluded that the intended uses in food and feed, import and processing (and not cultivation) would be unlikely to have any adverse effect on human or animal health or on the environment.

The proposal for maize variety originated from Syngenta. It was engineered with a modified cry3A​ coding sequence (mcry3A) ​from Bacillus thuringiensis​s ubsp. tenebrionis ​that prompts it to produce a protein that is toxic to the Western Corn rootworm and other similar pests that can devastate crops.

Following the Commission’s failure to reach agreement during the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, a proposal for authorisation will now be passed to the Council. It may be 3 to 6 months before it is tabled on the Council’s agenda.

Yesterday too a vote took place on three other GM maizes proposed for importation, Monsanto’s MON 88017 and MON 89034 et Pioneer’s 59122xNK603. The crops’ case was supported by agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, but the bloc’s agriculture ministers failed to reach a qualified majority on any of them, which means they will be passed back to the Commission.

A spokesperson for the Commission told that the Commission will make a decision based on the scientific evidence available. The route is often clearer – and faster – in the case of proposals for import only, rather than for the cultivation of GM crops.

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