Archived news articles - 2004

The Straits Times, 21 May 2004

EU lifts ban on genetically modified food

It approves biotech maize for tinned sweetcorn

BRUSSELS - The European Union (EU) ended its controversial ban on genetically modified food as its executive body authorised the import of biotech maize, the first new EU approval in more than five years, officials said.

The European Commission agreed to allow imports of the maize, known as Bt-11 and marketed by Swiss agrochemicals giant Syngenta, to be sold as tinned sweetcorn on supermarket shelves across the 25-member bloc.

'Bt-11 was approved by the commission,' spokesman Beate Gminder told reporters.

The decision follows months of deadlock between the EU's member states. It also flies in the face of public opinion in Europe , where consumers are overwhelmingly opposed to biotech food.

Supermarkets and food manufacturers have responded to this and tend to avoid stocking produce that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The last EU approval of any GMO product was in October 1998 for a type of carnation. The last food product, a type of maize, was approved in April that year.

'GM sweetcorn has been subjected to the most rigorous pre-marketing assessment in the world,' said EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne. 'It has been scientifically assessed as being as safe as any conventional maize,' he said in a statement.

'Food safety is therefore not an issue. It is a question of consumer choice.'

Although the EU decision confounds the hopes of GMO-sceptic states such as Austria and Denmark , it should delight some of the EU's top trading partners such as the United States , which has challenged the bloc's ban at the World Trade Organisation. - Reuters

Singapore Press Holdings Limited The Straits Times (Singapore).Copyright 2004

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