E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


EU food agency says Monsanto GM maize safe

(Friday, Dec. 5, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters, 12/04/03: BRUSSELS - The EU's food safety agency gave a clean bill of health on Thursday to a type of genetically modified maize made by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, assuring its safety for human and animal consumption.

The positive assessment by the European Food Safety Authority of Monsanto's NK603 maize is only one step down a long road toward lifting the 15-nation bloc's five-year unofficial ban on new genetically modified foods and crops, which have faced intense opposition in parts of Europe.

"The panel has concluded that the herbicide tolerant GM maize NK 603 is as safe as conventional maize and therefore that its placing on the marketing for import for processing and food or feed use is unlikely to have an adverse effect on human or animal health," the safety authority said in a statement.

Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles said the company was heartened by the assessment.

"Those findings mirror the findings of regulatory agencies throughout the world," said Quarles. "It's already approved in the U,S., Japan and Canada."

Monsanto shares closed up 22 cents at $27.87 on the New York Stock Exchange.

EU member states will now have to decide whether to allow imports of the GM maize. Growing the GM maize seed would remain banned, as Monsanto's application for authorization relates to imports as a food, and also for processing.

The 15-nation bloc is already torn over allowing imports of a different type of GM maize, Bt-11 sweetcorn made by Swiss firm Syngenta. A vote permitting the sale of the biotech sweetcorn in tins on supermarket shelves is set for Monday.

The debate and vote on NK603 is likely to be taken up by one of the EU's specialist committees early next year, whatever the outcome of the Bt-11 discussion, diplomats say.

"If approved (by the committee), it would therefore be possible to place on the market NK603 maize and derived products such as starch oil, maize gluten feed and maize meal for food and feed use, whereas the crop would be grown and harvested outside the EU," the safety authority's statement said.

The EU is under international pressure to lift its ban since the United States has launched a trade suit, arguing that Europe is acting illegally and without scientific proof.