EU approves first new genetically modified crops since 2013

By Philip Blenkinsop BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union cleared the import of 10 new types of genetically modified crops and two more kinds of cut flowers on Friday, its first authorizations in more than a year after a review of its blocked approval process. The European Commission said it had authorized 10 new types of maize, soybeans, cotton and oilseed rape as either human food or animal feed for 10 years. In practice, the crops produced by Monsanto, BASF and Bayer CropScience will principally be used as feed. It also extended by 10 years the use of seven other crops already in use produced by Bayer, Monsanto, Dupont's Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences. Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops have divided opinion in Europe. Some green groups say they are worried about the environmental impact of crops, question whether they are healthy for humans and say they lead to corporate control of the food chain. Producers say research shows the crops are safe. The approvals will be added to the existing list of 58 GM crops authorized in the European Union. The genetic modifications mainly offer protection against pests or resistance to herbicides. Two carnations, developed by Suntory Holdings [SUNTH.UL], have also been approved for import. The approvals, the first since November 2013, follow a proposal to change the rules on GM approval, allowing individual countries to restrict or prohibit GM imports even after they have been approved by the bloc as a whole. That proposal has angered both pro- and anti-GM camps. The former, such as the United States government, has said it amounts to a trade restriction and a hindrance to talks towards a planned EU-U.S. free trade deal. The latter say the change does not provide the legal grounds for national governments to opt out and will in practice lead to a flood of new approvals. Greenpeace said Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had broken a promise to change rules that force GM crops onto the EU market even if a majority of countries opposed them. "Today he opened the flood gates to a new wave of GM crops only to please U.S. biotech corporations and trade negotiators," it said. Industry body EuropaBio said the authorizations were a step in the right direction and would benefit European livestock farmers after a standstill over a year and a half. It said a further 40 applications still pending for genetically modified organisms should be processed without delay. Friday's approval only covers imports, not cultivation. Only one GM crop is currently grown in Europe: Monsanto's maize MON810 in Spain and Portugal. (Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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