Health commissioner asks EU governments to agree on GM crop

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The EU's Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, has said countries should be allowed to grow a genetically modified maize, if they wish.

In a statement on 6 November 2013, he said the request to cultivate the crop, known as maize 1507, should be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval, following a recent ruling by the Court of Justice that criticised delays in the approval procedure.

Mr Borg said the Commission was "duty bound" to take into account the court's ruling.

In 2001 a request to cultivate the insect-resistant crop was made by the company Pioneer, and on five occasions since, the European Food Safety Agency has given a positive opinion to the request.

The matter falls under the pre-Lisbon Treaty procedure, meaning that if there is no majority in the Council, either for or against the authorisation, then the Commission is obliged by law to grant approval.

Mr Borg used his statement to say that it was time for an "urgent agreement" on longstanding Commission proposals for new laws on the authorisation of GM crops.

Although the approval and authorisation of GM crops will remain under EU jurisdiction, in 2010 the Commission drafted a regulation to give member states more freedom to decide whether or not they want to cultivate GM crops on their territory.

They will no longer have to solely rely on "a scientific assessment of health and environmental risks performed at European level", however the draft regulation has been blocked by a number of EU governments.

Only one other GM crop is currently grown in Europe, the insect-resistant maize Monsanto, although seven EU countries - Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Luxembourg - have placed a ban on the crop.

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