May 17, 2004
EU Will Approve Syngenta GMO Corn Next Week
The European Union Commission will approve Wednesday plans by Syngenta AG (SYT) to sell genetically modified corn, an E.U. spokesman said Friday.
The decision will end a six-year moratorium on new biotech food.
"Any imports of the canned vegetable will have to show in the list of ingredients that this corn has been harvested from a genetically modified plant," said spokesman Reijo Kemppinen.
Europe's refusal to approve new types of genetically-modified food and crops has been a continual source of friction with Washington. Last year, the U.S. launched a case against the E.U. at the World Trade Organization, trying to force Europe to restart testing of GM foods, which was halted in 1998. E.U. institutions are divided over the technology. Farm ministers deadlocked in April on Syngenta's application for Bt11 sweet corn. Because ministers failed to reach a verdict, the E.U. executive, more favorable to GM foods, won the power to allow the product. The executive Commission had long urged an end to the de facto moratorium, saying strict new traceability and labeling rules that went into effect last month provided adequate protection for consumers.
The Bt11 proposal is the first of some 34 applications to start working its way through a new approval process.
Syngenta's corn is considered less controversial than some of the other strains under consideration because it is for consumption, not cultivation. Opponents of GM foods have expressed worry that planting GM crops could hurt the environment and contaminate existing crops.
The insect-resistant corn had been approved as animal feed and its derivatives, such as corn syrup, were approved for human consumption before the E.U. halted its approval process in 1998.
The Syngenta product is already used in foods imported into the E.U., "maize oil, maize flour, sugar and snacked foods and baked foods, confectionary and soft drinks," Kemppinen said. The approval will be valid in all 25 E.U. countries for 10 years, he added.
Despite the move ahead, controversy continues to hold up widespread acceptance of GM crops in Europe. On April 29, a panel of European Union scientific experts deadlocked on an application by U.S. agribusiness company Monsanto Co. (MON) for a different type of genetically modified maize.