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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Europe to back GM corn for humans
Tins of Bt-11 sweet corn will be labelled as GM products
The European Commission has said it will approve one variety of genetically modified corn (maize) for human consumption.

The ruling, to be discussed next week, would end a six-year moratorium on GM crops, which the US had challenged at the World Trade Organisation.

A bid by Swiss-based Syngenta to sell Bt-11 sweet corn for consumption will be approved, said European Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen.

Anti-GM campaigners say the decision has no political or scientific support.

Greenpeace political adviser Eric Gall said official reports in France and Austria had discredited claims about Bt-11, saying there was not enough scientific evidence to support its approval.


He said it would not matter whether the Commission allowed the sale of the product because European consumers were still against GM foods.

"The only effect this will have is to widen the gap between the Commission and its citizens," Mr Gall told BBC News Online.

The Commission does not have the political support of members states and it certainly does not have the support of the European people
Eric Gall
The failure of EU governments to reach agreement on whether to lift the ban meant it has been passed back to the Commission.

The EU executive has pressed for an end to the moratorium, saying strict new traceability and labelling rules provide protection for consumers.

Last month, France, Portugal, Austria, Luxembourg, Greece and Denmark continued to oppose a lifting of the ban.

Spain, Belgium and Germany abstained, while Italy, the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden and Finland voted to approve it.

David Byrne, the EU's commissioner in charge of food safety, showed his support at the time.

"I would imagine that, once these foods are authorised, they will be able to go on the market," he said.

"And I expect under those circumstances, the member states will respect the laws of the European Union."

Sceptical consumers

The decision will be valid in all 25 EU countries for 10 years.

The ruling would allow companies to sell the GM sweet corn in tins, clearly labelled as a GM product, but growing the crop would still be illegal.

Syngenta's Bt-11 is the first of around 30 such products awaiting approval.

The European Commission last approved a genetically modified organism for sale in 1998.

The US has consistently challenged through the World Trade Organisation the European Union's reluctance to import and sell genetically modified crops and food.

Environmental campaigners say that pressure has forced the commission's hand.

The BBC's Europe correspondent Tim Franks says that although the manufacturers may win the right to sell their products, convincing sceptical European consumers will be another battle altogether.

The news comes days after US agri-chemical company Monsanto said that it would not try to market a strain of GM wheat because of consumer resistance.

Foreign buyers including Japan, the main purchaser of US wheat, say they are unwilling to buy the GM crop, not least because they see few benefits for either consumers or themselves.

GM maize growing 'needs review'
11 May 04 |  Science/Nature
GM wheat 'delayed, not abandoned'
11 May 04 |  Science/Nature
Bayer deals blow to UK GM crops
31 Mar 04 |  Science/Nature
GM crops to be expanded
29 Mar 04 |  Science/Nature
Monsanto retreats from Europe
16 Oct 03 |  Business
GM crops: What the science says
09 Mar 04 |  Science/Nature


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