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EU exec to approve GM maize if ministers disagree

The European Commission will make a quick decision to authorize three varieties of GM maize so as to relieve pressure on the livestock sector if EU ministers fail to agree, the EU farm chief said.

EU farm ministers are expected to reach a stalemate over approval of the genetically modified maize from Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred, a unit of Dupont, paving the way for default approval by the 27-country bloc's executive Commission.

“I regret very much that the ministers do not understand the consequence of the decision that they might take today,” EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel told journalists ahead of a meeting of EU farm ministers.

“I hope the Commission can decide as soon as possible because this is really urgent,” Fischer Boel said.

The two maize varieties developed by Monsanto under the names MON88017, MON89034, and the Pioneer maize known as 59122xNK603 have been given the green light by the European food safety watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority.

Genetically modified food is a sensitive issue in many EU countries, such as France, Austria and Poland, with many people hostile to what they call “Frankenstein foods.”

EU law allows for rubberstamp GMO authorizations when ministers cannot agree after a certain time. Since 2004, the Brussels-based European Commission has approved a string of GM products, nearly all maize, in this way, outraging green groups.

The European Union does not allow the presence of any other GMO on EU territory, even in tiny amounts, until approval for that specific GM product is granted.

In recent months, shipments of soy with traces of unauthorized GMOs have been blocked from entering the EU in Spain and Germany, raising concerns that Europe could face a shortage of high-protein soybean and soy meal, used as livestock feed.

“I hope that the situation is resolved because it will have an important impact on the price of animal feed,” said Padraig Walshe, president of farmers union Copa-Cogeca.

“Europe imports 32 million tonnes of soybean and the zero-tolerance policy that is there is increasing the pressure on the price of feed,” he added. (Reuters)