* Companies have one month to react
* Deadline for opt-out requests expired on Oct. 3
* New EU law has attracted critics from both sides
BRUSSELS, Oct 4 Nineteen EU member states have
requested opt-outs for all or part of their territory from
cultivation of a Monsanto genetically-modified crop,
which is authorised to be grown in the European Union, the
European Commission said on Sunday.
Under a law signed in March, individual countries can seek
exclusion from any approval request for genetically modified
cultivation across the 28-nation EU.
The law was introduced to end years of stalemate as
genetically modified crops divide opinion in Europe.
Although widely grown in the Americas and Asia, public
opposition is strong in Europe and environmentalists have raised
concerns about the impact on biodiversity.
Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio on Sunday confirmed in an
emailed statement the Commission had received 19 opt-out
requests following the expiry of a deadline on Saturday.
The requests are for opt-outs from the approval of
Monsanto's GM maize MON 810, the only crop commercially
cultivated in the European Union, or for pending applications,
of which there are eight so far, the Commission said.
The requests have been or are being communicated to the
companies, which have a month to react.
Under the new law, the European Commission is responsible
for approvals, but requests to be excluded also have to be
submitted to the company making the application.
In response to the first exclusion requests in August from
Latvia and Greece, Monsanto said it was abiding by them, even
though it regarded them as unscientific.
The new EU law has critics from both sides.
The industry has said it breaks rules on free movement,
while environment campaigners say it is a weak compromise open
to court challenges from biotech companies.
The Commission spokesman said the number of requests proved
that the new law provides "a necessary legal framework to a
The 19 requests are from Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia
region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany (except for
research), Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Susan Thomas)