Belgium, February 18, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Associated
Press: The European Union deadlocked again
Wednesday on lifting its 6-year-old moratorium on new
biotech foods, failing to agree on a proposal to approve
U.S.-based Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready corn for import
The EU's executive commission said the proposal failed
to win enough support from a committee of experts from
the 15 EU countries, although it came closer than on
the first such application in December.
Nine countries voted in favor of lifting the moratorium
on Wednesday with five against and Germany abstaining.
Each country's vote is weighted based on size, however,
so the application failed even though a majority of
countries was in favor. There were 53 weighted votes
in favor when 62 such votes were needed.
Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal,
Finland, Sweden and Britain were in favor; Denmark,
Greece, Austria, Italy and Luxembourg opposed and Germany
was the lone holdout.
It now goes directly to government ministers. If they
don't make a decision in three months, the file returns
to the commission, which can adopt it on its own.
St. Louis-based Monsanto said in a statement it was
disappointed the EU members "did not reach a decision"
on the proposal to approve the importation of its corn.
It said the European Food Safety Authority concluded
last December that the variety in question was "as
safe as conventional maize" and that permitting
its import "for food or feed or processing is unlikely
to have an adverse effect on human or animal health."
Brett Begemann, executive vice president-international
for Monsanto, said the company was hopeful the government
ministers will approve it.
The vote on the first such application — canned
sweet corn from a strain developed by the Swiss-based
company Syngenta — had six countries in favor
and six against with three abstentions. That application
is already pending before government ministers.
In the December vote, Spain, Britain, Netherlands,
Finland, Sweden, Ireland voted in favor; Denmark, Greece,
Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, France against and Germany,
Italy and Belgium abstained.
The proposals are the first to start working their
way through the system since EU governments enacted
strict labeling and traceability rules for products
with genetically modified ingredients last summer.
The Commission has sought to reassure Washington the
new rules, which take effect in April, would bring an
end to the de facto moratorium imposed in 1998 amid
public fears about environmental and health effects
The United States started legal action in August at
the World Trade Organization (news - web sites) to get
the ban lifted.
In trading on the New York Stock Exchange (news - web
sites), Monsanto shares were down 13 cents to close