BRUSSELS The European Union will next week approve imports of genetically modified (GM) soybeans made by Bayer CropScience BAYG.DE, hoping to ease a shortage of animal feed, officials said on Wednesday.
The rubber-stamp approval, permitted under EU law when ministers from the bloc's 27 countries fail to agree after a certain time, will be valid for a standard 10 years and be granted by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, on September 8, they said.
Bayer's soybean, developed to resist glufosinate herbicides, is known by its codename A2704-12 and will be imported into EU markets either as whole soybeans, oil or meal, and then be processed by European companies for use in food and animal feed.
Its EU authorization does not permit cultivation in Europe.
The draft approval, obtained by Reuters, refers to the "placing on the market of foods, food ingredients and feed containing, consisting or produced by A2704-12 soybean".
The soybean is of particular interest to Europe's livestock and feed manufacturing industries since they depend heavily on imported soy products -- beans, meal -- as a source of protein-rich and high-quality feed.
The approval, which follows on from an inconclusive debate by EU farm ministers in July, may also allow the Commission to avoid proposing a controversial ceiling for amounts of unauthorized GM material tolerated in imports, officials say.
After a tortuous debate in May on how to push biotech policy forward and end years of deadlock between EU countries, the Commission said it would look at finding a "technical solution" to end the EU zero-tolerance policy on unauthorized GM products.
While the EU has approved a string of GM products -- mainly maize types -- by default rubber-stamps since 2004, it does not permit the presence of any other GMO on EU territory, even in tiny amounts, until the EU approval for that product is granted.
For major GM crop-growing countries such as the United States, Canada and Argentina, that policy has led to cargoes of rice and grain arriving at EU ports being impounded by local authorities if sampling shows the presence of unauthorized GM material.
Allowing imports of Bayer's GM soybean, along with a few pending GM maize applications, should help achieve the aim of raising supply of raw material for animal feed, officials say.
It might also allow the Commission to avoid embarking on a legal proposal to allow unauthorized GM material into Europe that would certainly be controversial and divisive, they say.
EU countries rarely agree on GM issues and discussions on authorizing imports of new GM products usually end in deadlock.
The EU's zero tolerance of unauthorized GM material has been a major headache for feedmakers and livestock producers.
Soy, an ideal high-protein raw material for feed, mainly enters Europe from Argentina, Brazil and the United States, the world's top three soybean producers.
Since these countries mainly grow GM varieties, non-biotech soy is becoming increasingly difficult to source.
(Editing by Christopher Johnson)