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Page last update: 25/12/2008

Gmos, Authorisation: Commission approves importation of GM maize variety

The European Commission has granted a licence for a genetically modified (GM) corn variety resistant to a certain herbicide to be imported - but not grown - in the EU for human consumption.

Based on an application submitted by US biotech giant Monsanto, the Commission’s import authorisation for the GM maize strand, known simply as NK603, for humans came following an earlier approval, in July, for its use as animal feed.

This means that it is now possible to place NK603 and derived products, such as starch, oil, maize gluten feed and maize meal for food and animal feed use on the European market. However, this authorisation does not extend to its cultivation which means that growers inside the EU are still not permitted to plant it.

NK603 has been modified to increase its tolerance to the herbicide glyphosphate . This improves weed control and thereby the cultivation of maize. The authorisation of NK603 maize for food use is valid immediately and will stay valid for 10 years.

Monsanto – with annual sales of more than €3.5 billion – welcomed the Commission’s decision following an earlier delay, while European environmental groups questioned it. “This is an important step,” Alistair Clemence, Monsanto's head of biotechnology regulatory affairs in Europe, was quoted by a news agency as saying. “It shows some willingness of the EU to move products through the regulatory process.”

As permitted by the EU decision-making process, the Commission authorised NK603 following the failure of the Council of Ministers to reach agreement in the three months allotted for it to decide. The European Union’s Regulatory Committee had deferred the decision to the Council following its own failure to obtain the necessary majority.

Signposting a safe road forward

In line with new EU legislation on labelling, the maize and any product containing it will have to show clearly that it has been genetically modified. “During my time as Commissioner, we put in place a clear and strict system for the authorisation and labelling of GMOs, based on clear scientific advice,” outgoing Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said.

“We are now seeing the system work in practice. The clear labelling 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.”

Despite these measures, consumer confidence in GMOs is still shaky. A recent EU survey found that more than 60% of European citizens said that they probably would not eat food that had been genetically modified.

The tough new Union legislation on the labelling and traceability of GMOs entered into force in April to ensure the ‘co-existence’ of GM, conventional and organic foods. The rules mean that any food containing more than 0.9% GMOs has to be clearly labelled as such. For the first time, the new regime covers animal feed, as well as food destined for human consumption.
The new rules also state that GMOs must be traceable throughout the entire production and distribution process. This obliges seed and crop producers to inform any purchaser of the presence of GMOs.


Source: EU and news sources
More Information:
Commission press release
Food and feed safety
Q&A on EU GMO regulations



Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top