Biotech maize blocked in Europe (28/9/2007)

Biotech maize blocked in Europe
Associated Press, 29 June 2007

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - Agriculture ministers from 10 EU countries on Wednesday blocked approval of three genetically modified varieties of maize for use on the European market, reflecting continued deep divisions among EU nations over whether biotech crops pose a risk to human or animal health.

The products had been given the all-clear by the EU's food safety authority, EFSA, which said they would not have adverse effects on health or the environment.

Diplomats said Austria, Malta, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg voted against, while France and Italy abstained, ensuring a deadlock. Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden led the group of biotech crop supporters.

The failure to reach agreement means it will be left to the EU's executive commission to approve the three products, which it is expected to do in the coming weeks.

Two of the GM crops were jointly developed and marketed by U.S. companies Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a division of Dupont Co., and Mycogen Seeds.

Their maize products are designed to resist insects like the corn rootworm and be tolerant to herbicides. The third maize product, developed by U.S. biotech firm Monsanto Co., is also insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant.

All three products are meant to be used in food and animal feed production but not used for cultivation in the EU.

The European Commission has been trying to get all EU governments on side to open up the EU market to more biotech crops, something the United States, Canada and others have demanded.

The EU ended a six-year moratorium on accepting applications for new biotech products in May 2004, introducing strict approval procedures and labeling regulations, but several EU nations remain reluctant to authorize biotech crops because of public health and environmental concerns.


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