|BRUSSELS - EU scientists have approved a detection method for an unauthorised genetically modified (GMO) maize that found its way into Europe, several weeks after the mix-up came to light, officials said on Monday.|
Earlier this month, Europe blocked imports of US maize animal feed and grains unless there is proof the shipments are untainted by the GMO strain, known as Bt-10 and marketed by Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta.
Certificates proving a cargo has no traces of Bt-10 must be issued by an internationally-accredited laboratory, on the basis of a EU-validated test provided by Syngenta. This detailed information has now been provided, and checked by EU scientists.
"What it means is that we now have a validated protection method in place," European Commission spokesman Philip tod told a daily news briefing, adding that this would be the "only accepted method to certify the presence of Bt-10".
"We expect from now on ... Syngenta will make sure exports are tested before they leave the United States on corn gluten feed and brewers grain," he said.
The EU measures will be reviewed at the end of October. US exporters send 3.5 million tonnes of corn gluten feed to Europe each year, a trade worth some 350 million euros ($449 million).
"(If there are) any shipments arriving with no certificate, then member states are compelled to demand them, do the test themselves or make the importer do it," Tod said.
In March, Syngenta said some of its maize seeds sent to the EU from the United States were mistakenly mixed with Bt-10. This insect-resistant strain is similar to Bt-11, a different GMO strain that won EU approval for distribution in 1998.
The maize mix-up occurred sometime between 2001 and 2004.
Small amounts of seeds, up to 10 kilograms, arrived in France and Spain from US suppliers for research purposes. All the seeds have since been destroyed.
Some 1,000 tonnes of Bt-10 maize also entered the EU as food and animal feed but it is still not clear to which countries. Around 70 percent of this is thought to be animal feed.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE