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EU ministers fail to clear GM food ingredient

By staff writer , 25-Oct-2005

EU farm ministers clash yet again on the contentious issue of GM food ingredients, failing to clear a new GMO corn from US biotech firm for import into the EU bloc.

 

Meeting yesterday in Luxembourg, the ministers failed to vote through imports of MON 863, a transgenic corn used for food engineered by Monsanto to resist the corn rootworm insect.

The politicians also refused to give the green light for Monsanto's herbicide-resistant maize GA21, designed to be used as an ingredient in food processing.

Despite tough new rules on the labelling of GM ingredients for food products, member states still need to be convinced that introducing genetically modified ingredients into food production is acceptable.

Facing the fury of anti-GM campaigners, early last year the European Commission broke the de facto moratorium on GM foods, and pushed through approval for a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta to enter the food chain. The first approval of a GM foodstuff since 1998.

Consumer groups complained that Brussels was caving into pressure from the US, the main global exporter of GM crops, but the Commission argued that tough new rules on traceability and labelling of GM foodstuffs had cleared the way for the re-launch of approvals.

That the EU ministers still fail to agree on the issue is a clear indication that Europe remains divided on the issue of biotech foods. The Commission has, to date, asked EU members over ten times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product. But in the large majority of cases, there was no agreement or simple deadlock.

However, under an obscure facet of the law known as the 'comitology procedure', Brussels can actually push through Mon 863 and GA21 through to law because the council has failed to reach a majority decision.

Green groups have repeatedly criticised the safety assessments of GMO products submitted for EU approval, particularly that concerning MON 863, despite the all clear from EFSA, the EU's food watchdog.

"We need clearer and stricter rules for the scientific evaluation of GMO applications in Europe, and a full review of the work of the European Food Safety's Authority's GMO panel," said yesterday Eric Gall, GMO campaigner at environment group Greenpeace.

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