* Unclear when EU Commission will approve new GM crop
* Letter warns of impact ahead of parliamentary elections
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Feb 13 Ministers from 12 EU countries
have written to European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg asking
him not to approve a strain of genetically modified maize to be
grown for human consumption, even though he says he is legally
bound to do so.
Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops are
generally unpopular in Europe, where public opposition is strong
and environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact on
At a meeting this week in Brussels, 19 of the European
Union's 28 member states opposed approval of the
insect-resistant Pioneer 1507, developed jointly by DuPont
and Dow Chemical.
Under the EU's voting rules, that was not enough to ensure
rejection. Instead, the decision reverts to the European
Commission, the EU executive, which says it now has to approve
the crop, although it has not stated when it will do so.
In their letter dated Feb. 12 and seen by Reuters, the
ministers said the level of opposition would not allow approval
under most democratic decision-making procedures.
"Those who believe in the value of the EU to its citizens
are rightly concerned how this will play out in the upcoming
European elections," the letter said.
Members of the European Parliament face elections in May.
The letter is signed by foreign and European affairs
ministers from Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Hungary,
Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and
The Commission says extensive scientific research has found
the new GM crop is safe, while the five nations that supported
it, including Britain, say EU farmers risk falling behind their
peers in the Americas and Asia.
Commission spokesman Roger Waite confirmed Borg had received
the letter, adding it offered no new arguments.
Borg has replied, he said, reminding the ministers that the
approval request for Pioneer 1507 dated back 13 years, EU
scientists had found it was safe and the Commission was legally
obliged to take a decision.
In a possible compromise, the Commission is reviving a
proposal that would enable member states to allow GM cultivation
if they wish to do so, while others could ban GM crops.
Ministers in the past have failed to agree on this proposal
too, but are expected to reconsider the issue in March.