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.
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
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
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