BRUSSELS — The European Commission on Wednesday approved six genetically modified corn varieties for import to the bloc, another sign of its desire to speed decision-making on the controversial technology.
The commission, the executive arm of the European Union, granted the approvals unilaterally after E.U. farm ministers failed to reach a decision on the applications in June. The approvals, which are valid for 10 years, cover imports for food and animal feed, not for cultivation.
“The six adoptions of today are the result of a usual and standard procedure concerning the authorization” of genetically modified crops, the commission said.
Last month the commission proposed an overhaul of the bloc’s rules on the cultivation of modified organisms, which if approved would allow member states to decide whether to allow or prohibit such crops in their territories.
The proposals followed a commitment last year from the commission’s president, José Manuel Barroso, to give member states greater power in cultivation decisions in a bid to break a deadlock between E.U. governments on the issue.
The decisions open the way for fresh imports of the approved corn varieties from countries like the United States, Brazil and Argentina.
In June, the commission told E.U. governments that failure to approve the varieties could lead to a repeat of last year’s disruption to animal feed imports.
That was caused by the European Union’s zero-tolerance policy on unapproved, genetically modified material in imports. Shipments of animal feed from the United States were refused entry to the bloc after minute traces of unapproved material were discovered in the cargo.
The commission has said it will propose a small tolerance margin for unapproved material in imports later this year, but until then the only solution is for the Union to approve varieties individually for import.
One of the decisions renewed previous E.U. approval for the insect-resistant Bt11 maize — developed by the Swiss-based biotech company Syngenta — which expired in 2007.
The other five covered new approvals for so-called “stacked” corn varieties, developed by combining existing insect- and herbicide-resistant biotech varieties together with using conventional plant breeding techniques.
One of the five was also developed by Syngenta; two were developed jointly by subsidiaries of the U.S. chemical companies DuPont and Dow Chemical; and a further two were developed by Monsanto.
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