October 25, 2007 / 12:31 PM / 12 years ago

EU environment chief opposes two GMO maizes

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s environment chief is proposing that two types of genetically modified (GMO) maize not be authorized for cultivation in the bloc, setting up a clash within the 27-member EU executive body.

The maize types in question are Syngenta’s Bt-11 and the 1507 maize developed jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont Co, and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds, according to documents seen by Reuters on Thursday.

But the other members of the European Commission oppose the position of Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, sources familiar with the situation said, implying the rejection may not take effect.

One EU source said all 26 other members of the EU executive body were against Dimas’ proposal.

Dimas’s draft decisions cite too much uncertainty that growing the crops would hurt the environment.

“The possible existence of delayed or long-term effects on the environment and biodiversity which may not be observed during the period of the release of the GMO but become apparent at a later stage are still unknown,” the draft document laying out a decision on Pioneer’s 1507 maize said.

“It is assessed that the degree of uncertainty attached to the results of the evaluation of the available scientific information is high, and that ... the level of risk generated by the cultivation of this product for the environment is unacceptable.”

“TOXIC”

A spokeswoman for Dimas declined to comment.

Environmental pressure groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe welcomed Dimas’s stance.

They said in a statement that the two types of maize, which are insect-resistant, “may also be toxic to certain butterfly species, affect other beneficial insects and have long term effects on soil health.”

Pioneer rejected the environmental concerns, citing an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that the products were safe.

It said in a statement on Thursday that failing to approve the product “appears contrary to the EU’s own philosophy of freedom of choice and competition in the marketplace.”

The company filed a lawsuit in May against the Commission over its alleged delay in submitting the company’s application for EU approval of the 1507 maize.

The biotech industry, which insists that its products are as safe as non-GMO equivalents, has long vented frustration over what it sees as the EU’s delay in approving GMOs.

EuropaBio, an association for the European industry, said Dimas’s move would hurt EU farmers.

“This would have a serious impact on the competitiveness of our farmers, the European agricultural industry and the whole food and feed chain,” it said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Jeremy Smith and William Schomberg

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