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EU keeps zero tolerance on GM imports

The European Union for now will keep its "zero tolerance" policy on allowing the presence of unapproved varieties of genetically modified plants in imported food and animal feed, a spokeswoman for the European Commission said Monday.

Biotech companies, farmers and feed importers sought a change to the policy because of concerns that imports with trace amounts of unapproved biotech plants would be blocked from the E.U. The concern is particularly acute for soybeans: the E.U. imports about 75% of its supply, and they form a crucial source of protein in the diet of Europe's livestock.

The E.U. is making progress toward approving new plant varieties for import, said commission health spokeswoman Nina Papdoulaki, citing the clearance of a biotech corn and soybean in the last seven months. The commission also sent a biotech soybean - Roundup Ready 2, developed by Monsanto Co. (MON) - to the European Council for approval, putting it on track for final import clearance by next year's harvest in the fall.

"We believe with the authorization of these products, there won't be any need for a (policy change), at least for the time being," Papadoulaki said. The commission will continue to monitor the situation and may decide that a change to the "zero tolerance" policy is in fact necessary, she added.

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