No EU majorities for MON863xMON810 and 1507 maize

[img_assist|nid=107|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=43]Once again no qualified majorities could be found to approve the import of GM crops. However, under EU regulation it is not important whether enough countries are in favour of it, but whether enough countries are against it. Is the EU ministers’ impasse once again favouring the biotech companies?

On 19 September, environmental experts failed to agree on the authorisation of imports of the GM maize hybrid MON863x810. Representatives of 12 member states voted against authorisation, seven were in favour, five abstained and one member state was absent from the vote.

While this is good news, unfortunately it doesn't mean that the import of Monsanto's MON863xMON810 hybrids is now blocked. The experts' failure to reach a consensus opinion either to approve the maize or reject it means that the matter will now be passed to EU ministers for a decision. If the ministers also fail to agree, after a period of three months, the European Commission gains the legal power to issue an approval.

This is what happened with 1507 maize just a day later. Back in May, EU agricultural experts couldn't reach an accord on the matter, with eight countries voting in favour, nine saying no and eight abstaining. In September there still was no majority, even though Denmark for the first time voted in favour. The member states have a total of 321 votes, and a qualified majority is 232 from at least 13 member states is needed to stop the approval of a GM crop once the procedure has started. Now the EU Commission can take its own decision.

Chances are that once again the EU Commission will favour the biotech companies – as it has in all four cases that came up before this EU Commission since it is in power: Monsanto's Roundup Ready oilseed rape GT73, Syngenta's maize Bt11, Monsanto's maize NK603 and MON863 were all approved for import despite the fact that not for one of them there was a majority in favour of it.

It might be a good thing if the EU Commission can take decisions if the ministers are at an impasse, but with GM crops the issue looks rather different. Over years now, member states have stated their opposition against GM crops, and not a single GM crop could ever gained a qualified majority in favour of it. Issues about co-existence and liability are still unsolved on the EU level, and while Member States repeatedly raised concerns about the applications of GM crops for import and cultivation, EFSA discarded these concerns.

While there are no qualified majorities in favour of any GM crops, there are qualified majorities about national bans of GM crops. On June 24th 2005 the Council of Environment ministers rejected proposals from the Commission to waive national bans in five member states on individual GMOs, which had been approved by the European Union. The largest majority was on the ban of maize Bt176 where 275 votes were against the EU Commissions proposal to lift the ban, and only 29 votes in favour (29:275:17).

Read more: Background information on MON863 hybrids and on EFSA's opinion about it.