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EU to seek approval for BASF biotech potato, reviving fight

The EU will ask its 25 members to allow cultivation of a genetically modified potato owned by BASF AG, the first time the EU has proposed allowing a gene crop to be planted since a ban on the products ended.

The Amflora potato, modified to increase its starch content, would be used for industrial purposes such as stiffening paper. The European Commission, the EU's regulator, will ask national governments to approve the product on December 4. „We've had a positive scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Agency, which means we'll propose the product for approval,” Barbara Helfferich, the commission's environment spokeswoman, said today by telephone in Brussels. „This is the first application for approval for planting a genetically modified crop since new regulations came into force in 2004.” The 2004 laws were drafted to allow the commission to approve biotech products if not enough countries could agree; six governments consistently blocked the approval of new gene-altered foods from 1999-2004.

The committee that will consider the BASF potato next week rejected other requests that were later approved by the commission. All approvals so far have been for importing foods grown outside the bloc, and the potato would be the first product to gain approval for planting. „EU countries should not support the authorization of this potato,” said Katherine Mill, a Greenpeace spokeswoman. While EU members opposed to the potato could block it with a two-thirds majority of votes, „I doubt the opposition will be sufficient,” she added. „We expect the potato to be approved in time for the growing season 2007,” Britta Stellbrink, a spokeswoman for Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF, said by telephone. The EU has come under mounting pressure to simplify decision-making on genetically modified products, after the World Trade Organization ruled in September that the five-year ban had been illegal and urged the bloc to comply with global trade rules. (Bloomberg)