EU seeks to revive talks on GMO crop cultivation

Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:18pm EST

* Plans to let EU states decide on GM crops in limbo

* Opposition from France, Germany, Britain blocking talks

* EU exec denies freeze on GM crop cultivation decisions

BRUSSELS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The European Union's health chief hopes to revive talks on draft legislation that would allow member governments to decide individually whether to grow or ban GM plants.

The draft rules proposed by the European Commission in 2010 were meant to unblock EU decision-making on genetically modified crops, by allowing some countries to use the technology while letting others impose cultivation bans.

But opposition from France, Germany and Britain has prevented agreement on the proposals, which must be approved by a majority of governments and the European Parliament before becoming law.

"We are going to discuss the issue with the three governments to see if we can reopen negotiations on the proposals," said Frederic Vincent, spokesman for EU health commissioner Tonio Borg.

Currently, EU rules state that any GM crop approved for cultivation can be grown anywhere inside the bloc, unless countries have specific scientific reasons for banning their cultivation.

Only two GM crops are currently approved for cultivation in Europe, where opposition from sceptical consumers and environmental groups remains strong.

That compares to more than 90 GM varieties approved for cultivation in the United States and about 30 in Brazil.

Seven GM crops - six maize varieties and one soybean - are currently awaiting cultivation approval from the Commission, having received a positive risk evaluation from the EU's food safety watchdog.

The crops concerned were developed by agri-business multinationals including Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences , and Syngenta.

Vincent said the Commission was unlikely to propose approving the seven varieties for cultivation in the coming weeks, but dismissed any suggestion of a freeze on EU cultivation decisions for GM crops.

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