European Union

EU Ministers Deadlocked on Three GMO Maize Approvals


EU farm ministers fell short of a consensus agreement on Wednesday to allow imports of three genetically modified (GMO) maize types, again revealing their deep differences on GMO crops and foods, officials said.

The three biotech maize types, two of them hybrids, would be imported for processing, for all food and feed uses. They are not meant to be cultivated within the 27-country European Union.

Since the ministers failed to achieve the required majority under the EU's weighted voting system, the decision now passes to the European Commission, which should issue a rubberstamp authorization according to EU legal procedures.

In reality, this means 10-year default approval, probably to be issued within a few weeks, or perhaps slightly longer.

"There was no qualified majority for or against (the draft approval decision) so the decision comes back to the Commission," one told Reuters.

The first GMO maize, known commercially as Herculex RW and also by its code name 59122, is jointly made by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont , and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds.

Herculex is designed to protect against larval stages of corn rootworm, which eats through plant roots and so reduces yield and nutrients. It also resists the active herbicide ingredient glusofinate ammonium.

The same two companies also developed a maize hybrid called 1507/NK603, engineered to resist field pests like the European corn borer, and also the herbicides glufosinate and glyphosate.

Corn borers, which attack the plant stalks and kernels, are found across Europe and thrive in warmer climates in southern EU countries such as Spain and Italy.

The third GMO maize is also a hybrid, developed by U.S. biotech company Monsanto and called MON810/NK603. The maize plants resist certain insects and also glyphosate -- the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

For many years, EU countries have not been able to gain the majority needed to vote through a new GMO approval under the EU's weighted voting system. But that may be slowly changing.

Analysis of recent GMO voting patterns shows that the consistent blocking minority of EU governments may be eroding as some smaller countries are opting to abstain rather than reject an application outright -- so weakening the anti-GMO camp.

Some countries, like Britain, Finland and the Netherlands, almost always vote in favor of approving new GMOs. They are offset by a group of GMO-skeptic states like Austria, Greece and Luxembourg, which vote against and force a stalemate.