News last update:6 Aug 2012

US awaits Europe GM approval

The US biotechnology industry is awaiting this fall's deadline for Europe to speed up its approval of new biotech food and crops. This would increase access to a major market.

After a World Trade Organization ruling last year found "undue delays" in Europe's approval of biotech products, the EC has until November 21 to bring its system up to speed.

Canice Nolan, who heads food safety affairs for the European Commission's delegation in Washington, said the EC is studying how to tighten up its internal processes and assessing other steps to streamline its approval system."We plan to have this done before the time limit runs out," Nolan said. EU-U.S. discussions are continuing on the issue, with the next meeting scheduled for October, according to Sharon Bomer, vice president of industry group BIO, which includes major biotech players such as BASF Plant Sciences, a unit of Germany's BASF, and Bayer Cropscience.

Divise in Europe
Biotech products are increasingly common the world over and are used in animal feed, human food and other products. Genetic modification can, among other things, boost vitamin content in food or make crops resistant to pesticides.
But they are divisive in Europe, where some consumers worry about their safety. The issue has also polarized the bloc's member states, with some routinely opposing new approvals. Bomer said the case is important not only because other countries may look to Europe for guidance on biotech regulation, but also because the bloc's "zero-tolerance" approach on unapproved products has the potential to derail massive trade flows from nations with more permissive systems.

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