Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | October 19, 2007

EU blocks approval of genetically modified crops

European Union governments blocked approval Wednesday of a genetically modified potato made by BASF and three corn varieties developed by Monsanto, hampering EU efforts to expand the market for bioengineered crops.
The opposition by health regulators from some countries prevents fast-track approval of the Amflora potato from BASF for animal feed and the Monsanto corn types for feed and food. The European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, must now ask government ministers to give their verdict in a step that will add months to a process that the United States says is too slow.
If the ministers fail to make a decision within three months, the commission usually issues its own authorization under a legal default process.
The potato and corn varieties pose “no risk to human or animal health or to the environment,” the commission said. A split among ministers would give the commission the power on its own to approve the BASF and Monsanto applications.
The commission is seeking to push through approvals of products in the $6 billion global bioengineered-crop market over the resistance of the governments of countries like Austria, Greece and Hungary. Surveys show opposition to such foods by more than half of European consumers, who worry about risks like human resistance to antibiotics and the development of “superweeds” impervious to herbicides.

Today in Business


Bioengineered foods range from corn to soybeans whose genetic material has been altered to add such beneficial traits as resistance to weed-killing chemicals. The national authorities throughout the EU have a say over approvals because the bloc’s single-market rules require that a product sold in one member state be allowed for sale in the others.

The EU ended a six-year moratorium on new gene-altered products in 2004 after tightening labeling rules and creating a food agency to screen applications by companies including Monsanto and Syngenta.
Since then, the EU has approved the importing of some gene-modified products for food and feed use via a slow-track procedure and has yet to endorse any requests for cultivation.
BASF, of Germany, is awaiting EU approval of a separate application to plant the Amflora potato for use as industrial starch. EU governments have failed over the past 10 months to muster a sufficient majority for or against this cultivation request at regulatory and ministerial levels, giving the commission the power to decide in the coming weeks.
BASF genetically altered the potato to enhance its starch content for industries including textiles, packaging and adhesives. Byproducts from the starch-extraction process would be used for animal feed.
The three corn varieties from Monsanto, based in the United States, are hybrid versions of products that have won EU approval for feed and food use.
In June, the European trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said any EU delay over the approval of bioengineered crops declared safe by scientists risked prompting legal challenges from farm exporters like the United States, Canada and Argentina.
Loss widens at Monsanto
Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, said that its loss had widened in its fiscal fourth quarter and that earnings in 2008 might rise less than analysts estimated, Bloomberg News reported from New York.
Profit in 2008 will be $2.20 to $2.40 a share, up from $2, Monsanto said, at the low end of the average $2.40 estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
The net loss widened to $210 million in the fourth quarter ended Aug. 31 compared with a loss of $144 million a year earlier, Monsanto said.
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