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EU Commission OKs modified maize variety

(Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Raf Casert, Associated Press, 10/26/04:
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union head office cleared the sale of food and food ingredients derived from a new genetically modified corn variety, arguing Tuesday that clear labeling will give consumers a choice of whether to use it.

The European Commission said approval for Monsanto Co.'s NK603 maize for food use is effective immediately and valid for ten years.

The commission has authorized several such products since ending a 6-year moratorium on new biotech food in the EU.

It said the product had undergone thorough health checks, adding that the new labeling rules would make the inclusion of the biotech product clear to consumers.

"The clear labeling 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," EU Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said.

The maize would be grown outside the 25-nation EU, he said.

St. Louis-based Monsanto welcomed the approval.

"This decision not only reaffirms the findings of regulatory bodies throughout the world, it also reinforces the profound benefits and potential of this technology for growers and the environment," said Jerry Hjelle, vice president of regulatory affairs for Monsanto.

The 25-nation EU has long had a reticent approach to GMO foods because of consumer fears it could affect their health or the environment. The bloc faces legal action at the World Trade Organization from the United States, Canada and other growers over its restrictions on biotech imports.

In trading Tuesday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange, Monsanto shares were down 2 cents at $39.20 - near the high end of their 52-week range of $23.96 to $39.99.