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TITLE:  EU Food Safety Agency to Assess First GMO Crops
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   18 Jan 2005

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EU Food Safety Agency to Assess First GMO Crops

BRUSSELS - The EU's food safety agency should give its first risk
analysis this year of live genetically modified (GMO) crops -- an issue
that has split the bloc's membership down the middle.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will assess the safety of two
GMO maize varieties whose manufacturers have requested cultivation as a
use when they applied for an EU-wide authorisation, officials said on Monday.

The two products are Bt-11 sweet maize, marketed by Switzerland's
Syngenta, and 1507 maize, jointly made by Pioneer Hi-Bred International
-- a subsidiary of DuPont Co -- and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds.

EFSA scientists had been due to give their opinion last September on the
two types of maize, modified to resist field insects such as the European
corn borer, but have asked for more data.

"The clock is stopped when we send out the request for more information
-- but we don't know how long we have to wait to get it. Then we have 90
days (to evaluate)," an EFSA official said.

Set up in 2002, EFSA's views are used by the European Commission as
independent scientific opinion on the safety risk of GMO products for
entry into the food chain, for consumption by humans and animals and for
release into the environment.

So far, EFSA has assessed GMOs where the requested uses have not included
the actual growing of biotech crops -- a highly sensitive area
forgovernments since many issues have yet to be resolved over possible
crop contamination and environmental liability. Scientists at the agency,
which will move to the Italian city of Parma later this year, are
expecting to assess several other GMOs this year for use in food and feed
products -- including biotech rice and sugar beet -- but only two so far
have a specified date for an opinion.

These are 1507 maize again, for which a food use assessment is due in
March, and a hybrid maize from US biotech giant Monsanto known as MON863/
MON810, where its view is due in June.




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