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EU Ministers Clash Again on GMO Policy

EU Ministers Clash Again on GMO Policy
LUXEMBOURG - EU farm ministers again revealed their long-standing rift over genetically modified (GMO) foods on Monday, failing to agree on approving new GMO imports or on an order for Greece to lift its national GMO ban.

The ministers were unable to muster enough of a majority under the EU's complex weighted voting system to reach any decisions. All GMOs under discussion are maize types made by US biotech giant Monsanto.

When this happens, the European Commission gains the legal power to approve a new GMO or -- in the case of Greece -- to issue an order to an EU state to reverse a national measure. This usually takes place within a few weeks.

Neither of the two GMO maize types where there was a request for import were for growing.

One product, a herbicide-resistant maize known as GA21, is designed to be used as an ingredient in food processing. The other, MON 863, is engineered to resist the corn rootworm insect and would be processed into animal feed.

Green groups have repeatedly criticised the safety assessments of GMO products submitted for EU approval, particularly that concerning MON 863, despite clean bills of health issued by the EU's leading food safety agency EFSA.

"Member states have rightly resisted pressure from the European Commission to authorise MON 863 maize, whose risk assessments were severely criticised by independent scientists," said Eric Gall, GMO campaigner at environment group Greenpeace.

"It (the Commission) should urgently respond to the many questions concerning the safety of this product and its flawed assessment," he told Reuters.

In a separate vote, the ministers also failed to secure a majority either to approve or reject a draft order for Greece to end a ban on planting seeds of another Monsanto GMO maize.

Last year the European Union authorised 17 different Monsanto maize seed strains from a parent crop for planting and sale across EU territory, flying in the face of widespread consumer resistance to GMO crops and foods.

EU law provides for countries to decide whether to allow such seeds on national territory. Greece used this provision in early 2005.

Story by Jeremy Smith

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