LUXEMBOURG, June 29 European Union farm
ministers failed to agree on Tuesday to approve six genetically
modified (GM) maize varieties for import to the bloc, despite a
warning that inaction could lead to a shortage of animal feed.
Following the deadlock, the import applications for use in
food and feed can now be approved unilaterally by the bloc's
executive, the European Commission.
In principle that could happen "within a few weeks", but the
Commission has not yet decided whether the approval will be
granted before or after the European summer break, a spokesman
for the EU executive told Reuters.
Before the vote, EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John
Dalli told ministers that authorisations should be approved as a
priority to avoid any repeat of last year's disruption to feed
That was caused by the EU's zero-tolerance policy on
unapproved GM material in imports -- shipments of animal feed
from the United States were refused entry to the bloc after
minute traces of unapproved GM material were discovered in the
The Commission has said it will propose a small tolerance
margin for unapproved GM in imports later this year to resolve
the issue, but until then the only solution is for the EU to
approve varieties individually for import. [ID:nLDE65922N]
One of the applications was to renew a previous EU approval
for the insect-resistant Bt11 maize, developed by Swiss-based
biotech company Syngenta SYNN.VX, which expired in 2007.
"A positive endorsement would effectively have signalled to
key trading partners that the EU regulatory system for GMOs is
functioning properly and would have helped to defuse mounting
trade tensions," said Syngenta spokesman Medard Schoenmaeckers.
"Syngenta is disappointed that once again, member states
could not come to a decision."
The other five covered new approvals for "stacked" maize
varieties, developed by combining existing insect- and
herbicide-resistant GM maize varieties together using
conventional plant breeding techniques.
One was developed by Syngenta, two were developed jointly by
subsidiaries of US chemicals companies DuPont (DD.N) and Dow
Chemical (DOW.N), and a further two were developed by Monsanto
(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Anthony Barker)