Authorisation, GMOs : GM maize held up despite EFSA all-clear
For the first time, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has given a clean bill of health for the growing of a genetically modified (GM) maize variety in the EU. However, experts from Member States have yet to authorise the crop.
On 4 March 2005, the EFSA delivered its positive verdict on a GM maize variety known as 1507. It is the first time that the independent and non-political agency has approved the importing of a GM crop for growing.
The European Commission uses the EFSA's views as independent scientific opinion on the safety risk of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for entry into the food chain, for consumption by humans and animals and for release into the environment.
Its decision came less than a year after a de facto six-year freeze on imports of new GMOs was lifted in the Union. This variety of corn has been engineered to resist the corn borer insect and other pests. It is made jointly by two US companies: a subsidiary of DuPont Co and a unit of Dow AgroSciences.
"The Panel considers that 1507 maize will have similar impacts on the environment as other comparable non-GM maize cultivated plant varieties," EFSA said. "The Panel is of the opinion that there is no evidence to indicate that the placing of 1507 maize and derived products on the market is likely to cause adverse effects on human or animal health or the environment."
A few days later, on 7 March 2005, the EU regulatory committee on GMOs - which is made up of experts from Member States - could not agree on whether to authorise the import and processing of the new corn.
Up until January 2005, the Commission had asked EU members nine times to vote on the authorisation of a GMO food or feed product. Last year, two crops - Bt11 sweetcorn from Swiss firm Syngenta and NK603 maize from US biotech giant Monsanto - were approved under regulation (EC) No 97/258 on novel foods.
The experts were due to vote on the subject again at their following meeting on 22 March 2005. However, if unresolved, the case may be handed over to the Council of Ministers to decide.
On the same day, the Commission was also due to launch a broad political debate on GMOs.