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2-Plants: EU may allow first GMO crop for growing since 1998



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TITLE:  EU may allow first GMO crop for growing since 1998
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   22 Apr 2005

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EU may allow first GMO crop for growing since 1998

BRUSSELS - EU environment experts may take a watershed vote in June on
whether to allow a new genetically modified (GMO) crop to be grown in
Europe's fields, the first such attempt since 1998, officials said on
Friday.

While the EU has now lifted its six-year ban on allowing imports of new
GMOs, there have been no approvals since 1998 on any new gene-spliced crop
that could be planted in Europe -- and the EU's 25 governments are deeply
divided on the issue.

A handful of GMO crops, mainly maize types, were authorised for growing
across the EU shortly before the moratorium began. No new crop has been
allowed for planting since then.

European consumers tend to take a dim view of GMO products, which have been
labelled "Frankenstein foods", despite assurances from producers and
scientists that they are safe.

A debate on whether to authorise sowings of the GMO crop, also a maize type,
could be held on June 6. "It is tentatively scheduled for that day, it's on
the draft agenda. But we don't know yet if that will be confirmed," an
official at the European Commission told Reuters.

Known as 1507, the maize is made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a
subsidiary of DuPont Co. , and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen seeds. It is
engineered to resist the corn-borer insect, among other pests, and a widely
used type of herbicide.

Despite the EU lifting its moratorium on new GMOs, there is little sign of
any break in the deadlock between the EU's 25 governments on GMO crops for
planting, diplomats say.

While the June 6 meeting, if it happens, will be closely watched, it may
yield no majority view to accept or reject the application for growing. If
this happens, which is not unlikely, EU environment ministers would be
asked to decide the issue.

CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH

The maize was first submitted to Spanish authorities in 2001 where it
received the necessary safety approval two years later.

Spain is the only EU state to grow gene-altered crops on a commercial scale,
although field trials exist elsewhere. Earlier this year, the maize got a
clean bill of health from the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA), whose
views are key to the biotech debate since it is independent and
non-political.

"We're looking forward to a positive vote by the member states," said Mike
Hall, Communications Manager at Europe Pioneer Overseas Corporation. "The
cultivation of 1507 maize will provide benefits to the environment and
European farmers."

"It's high time all member states assumed their responsibilities for
following the process and voting according to scientific evidence given by
EFSA declaring all uses of this product safe for animal and human health
and the environment."


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