EU deadlocked on GMO's

June 29, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Associated Press, 06/28/09: EU governments deadlocked over approval of Monsanto genetically modified corn product European Union governments on Monday failed to agree on a contentious proposal to approve a genetically modified corn made by a U.S. company for use in processed food.

Diplomats said EU environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg were deadlocked in a vote on giving approval to the introduction of the corn product, known as NK603.

Nine EU countries - Latvia, Denmark, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Italy, Greece, Austria and Luxembourg - voted against the license, and two countries, Belgium and Spain, abstained.

Nine others, led by Britain and the Netherlands were for the approval.

The stalemate however, will not prevent the EU's head office from approving the corn for sale on the European market. That decision is expected in the next few weeks, officials said.

The European Commission urged EU governments last Friday to approve the corn hybrid, produced by Monsanto Co. in St. Louis, Missouri, after it underwent "a thorough safety assessment for any adverse impact on public health."

The union last month lifted its six-year moratorium on approving genetically modified organisms. Under EU rules, member states have three months to decide whether to accept requests for biotech products for sale in the EU. If they fail to reach a decision, it is left to the Commission to decide on the application.

The stalemate reflects the deep divisions in Europe over the use of biotech foods.

Genetically altered crops remain unpopular among many consumers in the wake of recent food-related health scares, from mad cow disease to poisoned poultry.

In May, a biotech variety of corn made by Switzerland's Syngenta AG was approved for import and sale, but not cultivation. It was the first such approval for a biotech product in the EU since 1998, when a de facto moratorium was imposed in response to public fears about the health and safety of bioengineering.

The U.S. administration has accused the EU of violating international trade rules by hindering the marketing of genetically modified food.

Although it has welcomed the EU's lifting of a moratorium, it continues with a complaint against Europe at the World Trade Organization. An initial ruling is expected in September.