A request to cultivate the insect-resistant and herbicide-resistant maize variety 1507 was filed in Europe in 2001 and has since received six positive safety opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Last week, a European court blamed the Commission for the delays and ordered it to refer the decision to the Council of Ministers.
According to EU rules, the Commission must approve cultivation by the end of the year, unless a weighted majority of member states votes against it.
At the same time, the Commission has agreed to reactivate a debate over whether member states should be allowed to ban cultivation of crops that have been approved by the EU, on grounds other than those relating to risks to health and the environment, which would continue to be dealt with at an EU level.
József Máté, European communications manager for DuPont Pioneer, the company behind the maize variety, said that it welcomed the EC decision to move ahead with the application.
“1507 maize meets all EU regulatory requirements and should be approved for cultivation without further delay,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, GM opponents continue to criticise its use, claiming that there are still gaps in safety testing. Greenpeace has urged the Commission to reconsider its decision to recommend the crop for cultivation.
“Blindly rubber-stamping this GM maize would be a reckless decision by the Commission, putting biotech companies ahead of public safety,” said Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero. “The EU food safety authority has not properly assessed risks associated with the GM maize’s herbicide tolerance.”
Currently, only one GM crop is commercially grown in Europe, Monsanto’s MON810 maize variety, which has been modified for resistance to the European corn borer pest. BASF’s GM Amflora potato variety was approved for cultivation in the EU in 2010, but has not been grown in the region since 2011, after the company said there was a lack of market acceptance.
Asked whether European sentiment might affect DuPont Pioneer’s decision about cultivating the crop in Europe, Máté said: “Once 1507 cultivation approval is granted, DuPont Pioneer will evaluate the situation and the available options, and will take a strategic decision on the marketing of the product based on these considerations.”