Deep divisions over biotech food ingredients once again evident as member states fail to approve a gene-altered corn designed by US biotech giant Monsanto, reports Lindsey Partos.
Food and feed experts from member states failed to reach a qualified majority yesterday, that would have cleared the way for imports of Monsanto's Mon 863 maize into the European food chain.
Reflecting disparate opinions on biotech foods, the vote saw ten members in favour (including the UK and France), eight voting against (Greece and Italy for example) and six abstaining, an EU source tells FoodNavigator.com.
The outcome should come as no surprise. Since tough new labelling rules on GMOs entered into force last year, propelling an end to the de facto moratorium on GM ingredients, only two products have been cleared for import: a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta and Monsanto's MON810 biotech maize, engineered to be resistant to the European corn borer.
By comparison, over ten dossiers for GM ingredients have failed to gain approval for use in foods.
But while the biotech companies are pushing forward their applications for approval, there is little chance the European food industry will actually use the GM ingredients in their formulations.
By all accounts, the business savvy food maker, who cannot afford to lose sales, will opt to skip the use of GM ingredients in their European food formulations: knowing, as they do, that the cynical European consumer will refuse to buy any GM food product.
Critics of the Commission believe Europe's executive body is caving into pressure from the US: last year the US, the leading producer of GM crops, filed a case against the EU at the World Trade Organisation claiming Europe's precautionary stance on GM food, including the national bans, is a barrier to free trade that harms their farmers.
But for Monsanto, all may not be lost for EU approval of its MON 863 maize. The proposal now goes back to the Commission, which will then send it to the Council. According to the EU official, the proposal should be with the Council by June, which will then have three months to make a decision.
If the gridlock continues at the Council level, and in the absence of a vote, the Commission can actually adopt the proposal under a legal loophole.
In a separate vote, this time by post, member states yesterday failed to reach a qualified majority for a maize, known as 1507, made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds. The application was for import and processing for animal feed use and will now pass to the Council.