Despite a warning that inaction could lead to a shortage of animal feed European Union agricultural ministers failed to agree this week to approve six genetically modified maize varieties for import to the Union.
As a result the European Commission is now set to unilaterally approve import applications for use in food and feed.
In principle that could happen "within a few weeks", but the Commission has not yet decided whether the approval will be granted before or after the European summer break, a spokesman for the EU executive told Reuters.
Before the vote, EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli told ministers that authorisations should be approved as a priority to avoid any repeat of last year's disruption to feed imports.
That was caused by the EU's zero-tolerance policy on unapproved GM material in imports - shipments of animal feed from the United States were refused entry to the bloc after minute traces of unapproved GM material were discovered in the cargo.
Allow small tolerances
The Commission has said it will propose a small tolerance margin for unapproved GM in imports later this year to resolve the issue, but until then the only solution is for the EU to approve varieties individually for import.
One of the applications was to renew a previous EU approval for the insect-resistant Bt11 maize, developed by Swiss-based biotech company Syngenta, which expired in 2007.
The other five covered new approvals for "stacked" maize varieties, developed by combining existing insect- and herbicide-resistant GM maize varieties together using conventional plant breeding techniques.
One was developed by Syngenta, two were developed jointly by subsidiaries of US chemicals companies DuPont and Dow Chemical, and a further two were developed by Monsanto.
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