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EU experts to discuss France, Greece GM maize bans

  European Union biotech experts will debate next month whether to order France and Greece to lift their bans on growing the only genetically crop authorized for cultivation on EU soil, officials said on Thursday.

Both countries have used legal provisions to prohibit cultivation of MON 810 maize developed by US biotech company Monsanto but now face an order drafted by the European Commission, the EU executive, to repeal their national bans. A committee of experts, representing the EU’s 27 member countries plus Commission officials, will meet on Feb. 16 to vote on whether to approve both draft orders.

The Commission would need to secure a weighted majority of countries in favor of ordering France and Greece to lift the bans. There can also be a weighted majority against, when the Commission would withdraw the orders and reconsider. But if, as is most likely, there is no majority either for or against, EU ministers are asked to decide. If they cannot agree after three months, EU law gives the final say to the Commission, which would most probably issue both orders.

France banned cultivation of MON 810 maize seeds in February 2008, while Greece used the legal provision, known as a national safeguard measure, against MON 810 in early 2005 and has extended its ban at least twice since then.

In both cases, the European Food Safety Authority -- Europe’s leading independent food safety agency -- has said there is no specific scientific evidence to justify the bans. EU environment ministers will discuss at their meeting in early March whether to order Hungary to lift a similar ban. (Reuters)