EU authorizes GMO maize type by legal rubberstamp (8/8/2005)

The European Commission have approved Monsanto's controversial GM maize, MON863, for animal feed. The vote for food is still coming up at September's Council of Ministers' meeting.

Reuters piece below.

See also FOE Europe press release:

Commission press release:

EU authorizes GMO maize type by legal rubberstamp
Reuters, 08 August, 2005
By Jeremy Smith

BRUSSELS - The European Union authorized importsof a genetically modified (GMO) maize on Monday, the third GMOproduct to win approval since the EU ended its unofficialbiotech ban last year, officials said.

The maize, known as MON 863, is engineered by U.S. biotechgiant Monsanto to resist the corn rootworm insect.

In theory, the maize may now be sold across EU territoryfor processing into animal feed -- not for growing -- but willhave to receive a second EU approval for use in food beforeshipments can start. This might take another month, officialssaid.

"This authorization has been granted to Monsanto for 10years," the European Commission said in a statement. "When put on the market, it will need to be clearly labeled as containinggenetically modified maize," it said.

Even though the EU has now lifted its six-year unofficialmoratorium on approving new GMO products, national governmentshave consistently clashed over biotech policy.

The EU's member states have ended meetings in deadlock 14times in a row on whether to approve new GMO products, usuallyfor use in industrial processing or as animal feed. The lasttime they actually agreed on a new GMO approval was in 1998.

The decision taken by the European Commission was permittedunder a legal default procedure that kicks in after nationalgovernments are unable to agree among themselves.

The last chance that the 25-nation bloc had to reach amajority agreement was in late June at a meeting of EUenvironment ministers in Luxembourg.

Green groups were angry about the GMO approval, sayingthere were serious doubts about the maize's safety. TheEuropean Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave MON 863 a clean billof health in April 2004 and deemed it as safe as conventional maize.

"It is unacceptable that the European Commission pushesthrough this controversial application when there are questionson long-term safety," said Helen Holder, GMO campaigner atenvironment lobby group Friends of the Earth Europe.

In particular, green groups cite a feeding study of MON 863maize on rats, which they say showed significant differencesregarding kidney structures and levels of white blood cellsbetween rats fed on the GMO maize and those that were not.

The Commission says EFSA had already taken the rat studyinto account in an updated risk assessment of the maize latelast year, seeing no reason to change its original view.

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