E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


EU experts fail to agree on GMO maize imports

(Saturday, Sept. 25, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Jeremy Smith, Reuters, 09/22/04:
BRUSSELS - The European Union laid open its deep divisions over the safety of biotech foods this week, postponing a vote on whether to allow imports of a gene-modified (GMO) maize made by U.S. firm Monsanto, officials said.

EU environment experts representing the bloc's 25 member states failed to muster enough votes under the bloc's complex decision-making process either to approve or reject Monsanto's application. The date of their next meeting is as yet unclear.

"It is a postponement because several member states wanted more clarification. There will be another meeting when they have more information," said an official at the European Commission. "There wasn't a formal vote and not enough for or against."

The experts' meeting comes less than six months after the EU formally lifted its blockade on new biotech products with an approval, by a legal default procedure, of another GMO maize type made by a different company.

A qualified majority within the EU's weighted voting system is needed for experts - usually from food safety or environment portfolios - either to approve or reject GMO import requests.

If there are insufficient votes, the dossier usually passes to ministers, unless the experts agree with the Commission that a postponement is the best course of action. If ministers cannot agree after three months, the Commission can approve imports.

Monsanto's requested use for the maize, known as MON 863 and modified to resist the corn rootworm insect, is for animal feed and not for growing or for consumption by humans.


The environment experts did, however, voice opinions at the meeting, although the exact balance of views in the group is hard to establish.

Green groups said only four of thoe country delegations that spoke favoured authorising imports of MON 863 maize. A large number indicated they would abstain, when called upon.

"Disagreements over this GM maize highlight the lack of proper GMO evaluation procedures in Europe," said Eric Gall of international environment group Greenpeace in a statement. "Companies are submitting poor quality data and member states are failing to conduct thorough risk assessments."

The EU remains almost as deeply split over biotechnology as it was in 1998, when several countries said they would reject any new authorisations until the EU's biotech laws were tougher.

Since then, deadlock among EU countries at ministerial and committee level has been the pattern for all attempts by the executive Commission to win a new GMO approval, despite the ban's end.

Any new decision to allow imports would fly in the face of European opinion since more than 70 percent of consumers oppose GMO foods on heath and environment fears.