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EU executive advances on GM crops

European Union biotech experts will get the chance in February to vote whether to allow two genetically modified (GM) maize types to be grown in Europe, in a bid to break the long-standing EU deadlock on growing GM crops.

The full European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, on Jan. 21 backed proposals drafted by its environment unit that would grant standard 10-year licences for the two maize types: the EU’s first approvals for GM crop cultivation since 1998.

But to achieve that, the experts’ committee would have to reach a consensus deal under the EU’s weighted country voting system – highly unlikely, officials say, since the bloc’s 27 member states hardly ever agree on biotechnology issues.

The draft authorizations were likely to be discussed by national experts in February, the official said. The committee is next scheduled to meet Feb. 16.

After intensive internal debates on GMO policy, coupled with the pressure of a court case brought by one of the manufacturing companies and a third “green light” report by EU food safety agency EFSA – things have now moved forward at the commission.

The crops are Bt-11 maize, engineered by Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta, and 1507 maize – jointly developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Mycogen Seeds.

If the committee fails to reach enough majority voting weight either to approve or reject the two applications, they will be escalated to EU ministers for consideration. If after three months, the ministers fail to agree, then EU law provides for the commission to issue a default approval.

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