Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 11 News List

EU wants US guarantees over suspect animal feed


EU nations voted Friday to ban US shipments of suspect corn gluten animal feed unless the bloc has full assurance that the imports are free of non-authorized genetically modified corn.

The move could affect millions of dollars worth of corn gluten exports. The dispute centers on a batch of Bt10 genetically modified corn that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval.

"This is a targeted measure which is necessary to uphold EU law, maintain consumer confidence and ensure that the unauthorized GMO Bt10 cannot enter the EU. Imports of maize products which are certified as free of Bt10 will be able to continue," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

The ban will effectively shut out all imports of US corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10, which has not been approved by American or European regulators. EU spokesman Philip Tod said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use.

Chief operating officer of Syngenta Seeds Mike Mack said it would quickly have a workable test for the EU.

"We will make operational within a matter of days a valid test method to detect for Bt10," Mack said. Such a test would still need further approval from EU authorities. It was unclear how long such approval would take.

US shipments of corn gluten feed to the EU totaled euro347 million (US$450 million) last year.

The United States said the ban was exaggerated.

"We view the EU's decision to impose a certification requirement on US corn gluten due to the possible, low-level presence of Bt-10 corn to be an overreaction," said Edward Kemp, spokesman for the US mission to the EU.

"US regulatory authorities have determined there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt-10," Kemp added. "There is no reason to expect any negative impact from the small amounts of Bt-10 corn that may have entered the EU."

The ban is to come into force early next week, pending formal approval by the EU's head office.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the move. "Europe now has a de facto ban on the import of many US animal feeds," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Adrian Bebb.

However, Greenpeace warned that stricter controls are needed to prevent more cases of unauthorized biotech imports

"Europe is currently helpless to defend itself from contamination by GMOs that are suspected to harm human health and the environment," said Christoph Then, genetic engineering expert for the campaign group.

"As long as EU authorities have no means to test imports for all the GMOs being released in the US and elsewhere, it must say `No Entry' to the EU for any food, feed or seeds that are at risk of contamination."

The EU said it is in continuous contact with US authorities on the issue, but its decision to ban suspect corn gluten imports further strains trans-Atlantic trade relations.

Syngenta said last week it has reached a settlement with the US government over the inadvertent sale to farmers of Bt10.

The company said in a statement that under the settlement reached with US authorities, it would pay a fine of US$ 375,000 (euro290,200) and teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules.

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