EU ministers split on GM crop import approvals

BRUSSELS, March 17 Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:24am EDT

BRUSSELS, March 17 (Reuters) - European Union farm ministers failed to reach a decision on Thursday on whether to grant import approval to three genetically modified (GM) crops, which means the final decision now rests with the bloc's executive.

The ministers failed to decide whether to approve imports of a herbicide-tolerant GM cotton developed by Germany's Bayer (BAYGn.DE) and a herbicide- and insect-resistant maize developed by U.S. biotech firm Monsanto (MON.N), an EU source said.

They also did not agree on a third application: to update an existing EU approval for a pest- and herbicide-resistant maize developed by Dow (DOW.N) to also cover its use as an animal feed additive.

All of the applications cover the import and sale of GM products such as animal feed but not their cultivation in the EU.

EU ministers have never taken a decision either to reject or approve a GM crop application for import or cultivation, with governments constantly split along pro- and anti-GM lines.

For most GM crop applications when the EU's scientific assessments find no environmental or health risks, the EU's executive -- the European Commission -- has subsequently granted approvals when ministers are unable to reach a decision.

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Rex Merrifield)