No consensus on GMOs

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Oilseed rape, European union

Demonstrating the clear divisions that exist between member states
and the European Commission over genetically modified foodstuffs,
in the same week that Belgian ministers threw out an application
for an oilseed rape, the EU's food safety chief predicts that GM
sweetcorn could be in the European can within months.

Belgian ministers rejected an application from biotech company Bayer CropScience to grow genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape commercially throughout Europe after research from a recent report in the UK ?the Farm Scale Evaluations (FSE) - showed that growing the crop could harm the environment.

German-based Bayer CropScience had applied through Belgium for a Europe-wide licence to grow and import the GM oilseed rape. Belgian ministers have forwarded the application to all member states for a joint decision.

In contrast, speaking at a meeting with consumer organisations this week EU Commissioner for health and consumer protection David Byrne said that authorisation for biotech sweetcorn ?Bt-11 from Swiss firm Syngenta - could be made a couple of weeks after 15 April, referring to the exact date when the new rules on GMO labelling would apply.

The imminent rules were created in order provide consumers with the choice between GM and non-GM products on supermarket shelves and their entry will likely mark the end of the unofficial ban on biotech foods and crops in place in Europe since 1998.

Despite the tighter labelling rules Europe remains divided on the issue with member states yet to be convinced about the full benefits of GMO crops and foodstuffs. The Belgian decision this week to block any approval process for Bayer's oilseed rape is one such example.

Ministers from the EU member states at the European Council are due to take a decision in the next three months on the import of Syngenta's genetically modified sweetcorn. If they fail to reach a conclusion, the Commission could allow imports of the GM maize variety under its own initiative.

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