* Bloc allows 0.1 pct unapproved GM material
* Threshold applies only to imports of feed, not food
BRUSSELS, June 24 (Reuters) - The European Union adopted new rules on Friday allowing traces of unapproved genetically modified (GM) material in animal feed imports, in a bid to secure grain fodder supplies to the import-dependent bloc.
“The regulation ... addresses the current uncertainty EU operators face when placing on the market feed products imported from third countries,” the Commission said in a statement.
The EU and its trading partners -- backed by industry -- argue the 0.1 percent threshold is needed to avoid a repeat of supply disruptions in 2009, when U.S. soy shipments to Europe were blocked after unapproved GM material was found in some cargoes.
But environmental campaigners and consumer groups have accused the EU of caving in to GM-industry lobbying by reversing its “zero-tolerance” policy on unauthorised GM crops.
Some environmentalists argue that the effect of consuming GM crops is unknown and say these varieties have not completed the EU’s safety assessment process.
The GM crops in question must have been approved in a non-EU producing country and an EU authorisation request must have been lodged with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for at least three months.
EFSA must also have issued an opinion that the presence of GM products at 0.1 percent does not pose risks to health or the environment.
The 0.1 percent threshold will only apply to imports of animal feed and not human food, despite warnings from traders and exporting states that it is impractical and costly to separate global grain supplies into those destined for humans and those for animals.
The EU currently imports some 45 million tonnes of protein crops a year, much of it soy beans and soy meal from Brazil, Argentina and the U.S. destined for use as animal feed.
The majority of soy beans grown in these countries are GM varieties developed by biotech companies such as Monsanto .
A majority of EU governments are reported to be in favour of a similar threshold for food imports, but the Commission has said it currently has no plans to table such a proposal. (Reporting by Charlie Dunmore; editing by Jason Neely)