Expatica news

EU agency approves 2 GM corn products

3 November 2008

BRUSSELS – The European Union’s food safety agency approved two genetically modified corns Friday, putting renewed pressure on EU nations to drop their objections to the use of biotech crops.

Scientists at the Parma, Italy-based European Food Safety Authority, or EFSA gave clearance to a Bt-11 corn seed made by Switzerland’s Syngenta AG and the 1507 corn made by the US-based Pioneer Hi-Bred and Dow Agrosciences.

Both varieties offer resistance to insects, including corn borers and certain butterflies.

They were already deemed safe by the agency in 2005, but were resubmitted for testing by the EU Commission in May amid fresh claims by environmental groups that they were a threat to the environment and human health.

The EU agency also said a French ban on another GM corn product, produced by US biotech giant Monsanto Co, was unjustified. The EU granted approval to sell the seeds in the bloc in 2004.

Mike Hall, spokesman for Pioneer, welcomed the panel’s opinion.

"This dossier has already been unduly delayed contrary to EU legislation for nearly four years now and we urge the speedy approval of 1507 so that European farmers can benefit," Hall said.

It will now be up to the European Commission to decide whether to issue the companies licenses to sell the products in the 27-nation bloc. The issue poses a headache for the Commission, which is trying to force reluctant EU governments to drop some national GM crop bans, amid increasing global pressure from Europe’s trade partners.

The panel’s decisions sparked a strong reaction from environmental group Greenpeace, which called on the EU to suspend the agency’s power to issue safety checks until a full review of how the EU approves GM crops is done.

Greenpeace claims more research is needed to assess the long-term impact of altered crops on the environment and human health and alleges the scientist panel ignored evidence that the two crops could have a bad effect on biodiversity and the environment.

"EFSA is becoming the laughing stock of the scientific community. Rubber stamping anything the agro-biotech industry puts forward, with the blessing of the European Commission, is destroying its credibility," said Marta Vetier of Greenpeace.

EU countries are currently debating whether to change the way the bloc decides on granting user licenses to GM crops and seeds.

Many member states, including Greece, Austria, Poland and France are hesitant to adopt new crops fearing environmental consequences. Under EU rules member states have to approve new licenses unanimously. If they can’t, the EU’s executive commission makes the decision on behalf of all countries.

[AP / Expatica]