|BRUSSELS - EU environment ministers will discuss allowing imports of a biotech rapeseed next week but the chances of agreement are slim, meaning EU process may well lead to another default authorisation, officials said on Friday.|
If so, it would be the third approval by bureaucratic default since the EU restarted new GMO authorisations in mid-May and ended a longstanding moratorium on new biotech imports that has angered major trading partners like the United States.
In June, experts from the EU's 25 member states failed to agree on approving the rapeseed, known as GT73 and marketed by US biotech giant Monsanto. Under the EU's complex decision-making procedure, the matter has passed to ministers.
If the ministers, who are due to meet on Monday, fail to agree, then the EU's executive Commission gains the legal right to allow the rapeseed for import and use across EU territory.
"Some member states have changed their position but the overall picture is that there would not be a majority either for or against," said David Grant Lawrence, an acting director in the Commission's environment department.
"So the matter would return to the Commission," he told a news conference. If the ministers cannot agree on the rapeseed, it would be the ninth occasion in a row where the EU has been unable to reach a consensus on allowing a new GMO import.
Assuming this outcome, the Commission can be expected to rubberstamp an approval, probably some time in January.
Monsanto's requested use is for animal feed and industrial processing, not for growing. GT73 rapeseed is altered to resist the non-selective herbicide glyphosate, making it easier for farmers to manage weeds effectively.
In June, a committee of member state experts broke up in disarray on whether to allow imports of the rapeseed, generally seen as a more controversial GMO product than maize.
European consumers remain largely hostile to biotech foods with opposition rated at more than 70 percent. Supermarkets and food manufacturers have responded to this and still tend to avoid stocking produce that contains GMOs.
"EU member states have to take a clear position to defend consumers and the environment from the threats posed by this GMO," international environment group Greenpeace said.
Story by Jeremy Smith
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE