By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU politicians on Wednesday will sign a new law on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in the European Union, clearing the way for a wave of approvals after years of deadlock.
One of the first crops to get European Commission endorsement is likely to be an insect resistant maize known as 1507, whose developers DuPont and Dow Chemical have been waiting 14 years for the EU executive to authorize its cultivation in the EU.
Widely-grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops in Europe have divided opinion. Britain favors them, while France is among the nations that oppose them.
The compromise law seeks to keep everyone happy by giving member states the right to ban GM crops even after European Commission approvals.
“All GM maize is banned for cultivation in France and we will not change this,” French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told reporters when asked what France would do if 1507 were cleared for cultivation.
Under the old rules, member states could provisionally ban or restrict a GM crop on their territory only if they had new evidence it constituted a risk to human health or the environment or in the case of an emergency.
The GM industry says the new law, which gives greater scope to restrict GM farming, flouts scientific evidence that it is safe, while environment campaigners say it will open the floodgates to crops they say are linked to a decrease in biodiversity.
Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Commissioner for health and food safety, said the new law is: “A positive step in aligning the legislation with citizens’ expectations while respecting the rights of all parties.”
After Wednesday’s signing in a full session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the law will be published in the EU’s Official Journal on Friday and enter into force 20 days later.
EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity said they expect the Commission will at some point after that go ahead with approval of 1507 maize, which the previous health Commissioner said last year he was legally obliged to approve.
In addition, a list of 13 GM crops to be imported for food or animal feed, less controversial than those to be grown in Europe, is expected to get approval and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has announced a review of the approval process for genetically modified crops.
DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences said their 1507 GM maize met all EU regulatory requirements and should be approved for cultivation without further delay.
(Additional reporting by Sybille de la Hamaide in Paris, editing by Louise Heavens)