Third EU GM food approval on the way?

Related tags Maize Gm

A third source of GM ingredients could soon be cleared by Europe as
officials meet to discuss to clear approval for a corn designed by
biotech giant Monsanto.

EU experts will vote on whether to allow imports of MON 863, modified to resist the corn rootworm insect, into the European food chain.

If cleared, this will mark the third biotech foodstuff allowed for European consumption in the bloc following the end of the de facto moratorium on new authorisations earlier this year.

Despite tough new European rules to track and label genetically modified organisms enforced in April, food makers are opting to skip GM ingredients in European food formulations because they know the suspicious European consumer will refuse to buy GM food products.

The meeting on Monday is a further attempt by the European Commission to push through approval for the MON 863, cleared earlier this year on risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but two months ago member states failed to agree to allow MON 863, a situation that may be repeated next week.

If this is the case, the Commission, and as is likely, could push it through under a facet of the law known as the 'comitology procedure' - when the council fails to reach a majority decision, the Commission itself can force the green light.

Facing the fury of anti-GM campaigners, in May this year the Commission used this legal capacity to approve a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta to enter the food chain - the first approval of a GM foodstuff since 1998 and marking the end of the de facto moratorium set up in 1998. MON810, a biotech maize engineered by Monsanto to be resistant to the European corn borer, became the second approval since the ban when cleared within months of Syngenta's product.

Canada, Japan, the Philippines and the US have all cleared MON863 for use in food.

In 2003 non-GM maize (Zea mays L.), or corn, was grown commercially in over 150 countries and worldwide combined production hit 638 million metric tonnes harvested from 143 million hectares.

In 2004, Monsanto's global biotech acres rose by 14 per cent to 172 million acres, up from 150 million acres in 2003.

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