BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 27, 2004 (ENS):
The European Commission, in one of its final acts before
handing off to new commissioners next week, has authorized
the import and marketing of foods and food ingredients
derived from Monsanto's genetically modified maize line
NK603. The approval came Tuesday over the objections
of environmentalists, who fear it will sicken sensitive
consumers and contaminate organic crops.
This maize, or corn, has already been approved or import
and for use as animal feed and for industrial processing.
With both approvals in place, it is now possible to
place on the market NK603 maize and derived products
such as starch, oil, maize gluten feed and maize meal
for food and feed use. The crop will be grown and harvested
outside the EU.
NK603 maize has been modified to make the it tolerant
to Monsanto's own herbicide, glyphosphate, marketed
under the trade name Roundup. The authorization of NK603
maize for food use is valid immediately and will stay
valid for 10 years.
David Byrne, the outgoing commissioner responsible
for health and consumer protection, said, “During
my time as commissioner, we put in place a clear and
strict system for the authorization and labeling of
GMOs, based on clear scientific advice. We are now seeing
the system work in practice.
"The clear labeling system guarantees consumers
what they have asked for - the information they need
so that they can choose whether or not to buy any genetically
modified products," he said.
The Commission took the decision to authorize NK603
following the failure of the Council of Ministers either
to approve or reject the Commission proposal for authorization.
Only 11 out of 25 member states supported it in an indicative
vote taken in June.
Friends of the Earth charges that the Commission caved
in to the pressure from the Bush administration in the
United States, which brought a complaint at the World
Trade Organization against Europe's biotech policy.
Geert Ritsema, coordinator of genetically modified
food issues for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This
is a shameful final act by the outgoing European Commission.
Despite scientific disagreements over its safety and
huge public rejection the Commission decided instead
to put the interests of corporate America before the
safety of Europeans."
Friends of the Earth is critical of the Monsanto application
which fails to look at the corn's effects on subsequent
generations, cumulative toxic effects and the effects
on the health of sensitive consumers as required under
EU food law.
There has not been sufficient investigation of the
possibility of the genetic modification causing more
allergies, the environmental group says.
But Monsanto says the genetically modified maize, marketed
in the United States as Roundup Ready Corn 2, is good
for the environment. Jerry Hjelle, vice president of
regulatory affairs for Monsanto, said, "This decision
not only reaffirms the findings of regulatory bodies
throughout the world, it also reinforces the profound
benefits and potential of this technology for growers
and the environment."
The Roundup Ready system encourages the adoption of
conservation tillage practices, which reduces soil erosion,
improves water quality and wildlife habitat, while optimizing
yields, Hjelle says.
The NK603 maize will be imported from the United States
where corn growers are delighted with the Commission's
decision. Leon Corzine, president of the National Corn
Growers Association, called the move, "a welcome
step forward, although long overdue," and said
it "supports the National Corn Growers Association's
goal of providing information about and promoting acceptance
"Biotechnology continues to be one of National
Corn Growers Association's key priorities and this decision
is certainly encouraging for U.S. corn growers,"
Monsanto's year-end sales data for 2004 show that acres
planted with Roundup Ready corn rose for a seventh consecutive
season in the United States. Roundup Ready corn technology
is estimated to have been planted on more than 16 million
acres this season, up from 12 million acres in 2003.
The European Commission's decision does not include
the approval of NK603 maize for cultivation in the EU,
which is the subject of a separate submission.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All