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Checkbiotech: EU experts to debate approving new GMO maize
Posted by: DR. RAUPP & madora (IP Logged)
Date: August 31, 2004 07:30PM ;

EU environment experts will debate next month whether to allow imports of a
genetically modified (GMO) maize, potentially the EU's second GMO approval
after lifting its biotech ban in May, officials said August 2004 by Jeremy

The maize, engineered by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto to protect against
the corn rootworm insect, would be used in animal feed -- but not for
growing, or for human consumption.

According to a draft European Commission decision obtained by Reuters, the
MON 863 maize would be "put to the same uses as any other maize, with the
exception of cultivation and uses as or in food". The committee of experts
will meet on September 20.

The EU's food safety agency gave MON 863 the green light in April,
considering it safe for human and animal consumption.

But its opinion on a hybrid maize, engineered by crossing MON 863 and
another Monsanto type, is on hold pending further data. Both MON 863 and the
hybrid were included in Monsanto's original request for EU approval,
submitted early in 2003.

"There are two products in one notification. It's only the one that isn't (a
hybrid)...that will be voted on in the committee," a Commission official
told Reuters.

If approved, MON 863 maize would be the second GMO product to received
EU-wide authorisation since the bloc lifted its five-year blockade on new
GMO approvals in mid-May.

A third product, another Monsanto maize known as NK603, is likely to receive
final EU approval by legal default in early October with a rubberstamp from
the Commission -- permitted if EU ministers fail to reach agreement after a
three-month period.

Under the EU's complex decision-making process, if EU member states fail to
agree after three months at ministerial level on allowing a new GMO into the
bloc, then the Commission -- the bloc's executive arm -- may issue an


Agreement among the EU's 25 member states on new GMOs looks almost as far
away as it was during the EU's moratorium years, which began in 1998 when
several states said they would reject any new authorisations until the EU's
biotech laws were tougher.

Deadlock at ministerial and committee levels has been the pattern for all
Commission attempts to win a new GMO approval since 1998. Under the EU's
weighted voting system, a qualified majority is needed either to approve or
reject such an approval.

"It (deadlock) has happened seven times in a row. But so far, we have not
seen a real qualified majority against," said Geert Ritsema at environmental
group Friends of the Earth.

"A lot of countries abstain and that doesn't count as a vote, it doesn't
block anything...and a certain point will come when that cannot be
maintained," he said. "But the Commission don't like the fact that they're
not getting the support."

Several of the EU's 10 new member states were reluctant to take a stand on
the thorny issue of biotechnology and therefore abstained from voting, he

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