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EU food agency says Monsanto GM rapeseed safe

EU food agency says Monsanto GM rapeseed safe
BRUSSELS - The EU\'s food safety agency gave a clean bill of health this week to a type of genetically modified rapeseed made by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , deeming it safe to be consumed by humans and animals.

But the positive assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of Monsanto (MNSN.BO: Quote, Profile, Research) \'s GT73 rapeseed is only one step down a long road towards lifting the 15-nation bloc\'s five-year unofficial ban on new genetically modified foods and crops.

\"The panel has concluded that the herbicide-tolerant GM oilseed rape GT73 is as safe as conventional oilseed rape,\" EFSA said. This is EFSA\'s second such assessment of biotech food.

\"Therefore the placing on the market - for import, processing and feed use - is unlikely to have an adverse effect on human or animal health or, in the context of its proposed use, on the environment,\" it said in a statement.

EU member states will now have to decide whether to allow imports of the GM rapeseed, which has been engineered to resist the non-selective herbicide glyphosate to allow farmers to manage weeds more effectively in their rapeseed fields.

But the 15 states are deeply split on whether to end the EU\'s ban, the focus of a bitter trade row with Washington which has launched a trade suit against EU policy, arguing that Europe is acting illegally and without scientific proof.

For the moment, cultivation of GT73 rapeseed would remain banned, as Monsanto \'s application for import authorisation only relates to use in animal feed and in processing. EFSA\'s views are key to the debate since it is independent and non-political.

GT73 rapeseed had been planted for field trials within the EU and marketed in several non-EU countries, EFSA said, adding that the chances of accidental release and spread of the biotech rapeseed would not differ between GT73 and conventional types.

EFSA said there were no indications of significant differences between the two varieties.

Green groups were unimpressed with EFSA\'s latest ruling.

\"EFSA is encouraging the cultivation of GM crops elsewhere in the world by approving Monsanto \'s oilseed rape, despite UK field trials showing the damage that GM rape causes to the environment,\" said Greenpeace GMO campaigner Dan Belusa.

In its first biotech food assessment in December, EFSA gave a clean bill of health to another Monsanto product, a herbicide-resistant GM maize type known as NK603.

Story by Jeremy Smith

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