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EU refuses to force Hungary to lift ban on gene-modified corn - extended

European Union governments refused to force Hungary to end a ban on a genetically modified corn variety made by Monsanto Co.

Environment ministers from the EU's 27 governments blocked a proposal by the European Commission, the EU's regulatory arm, to force Hungary to lift its ban on Monsanto's MON810 corn. Under EU rules, bans should be lifted once the European Food Safety Authority has considered additional scientific evidence put forth in their defense. „A qualified majority of member states voted against the proposal,” Barbara Helfferich, a commission spokeswoman, said by telephone. The commission will now „consider its options very carefully,” she said. These could include proposing new laws on how genetically altered crops are approved for use. Today's vote is a defeat for the commission, which must make sure EU laws are respected and is under pressure to comply with a 2006 WTO ruling urging it to scrap bans once scientists say they're unjustified and to improve market access for producers of gene-altered crops. The commission may now consider drafting new legislation, Helfferich said, conceding that the possibility of taking the national governments that voted against today's proposal to Europe's highest court is also an option.

Twenty-two governments voted against the commission, with only Romania abstaining. The four countries that backed the commission were the UK, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. The 22 countries acted „in defense of the environment and in line with European public opinion,” Marco Contiero, a Greenpeace spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. „We look forward to the day when the European Commission also puts defense of the public interest before the interests of US agribusiness and its lobbyists in Brussels and at the WTO.” On December 18, the commission was defeated as it tried to force Austria to lift two bans on gene-altered corn – one concerning MON810, which deters moths, and another engineered by Bayer CropScience AG that is resistant to herbicides that kill weeds. (Bloomberg)