February 26, 2009

Modified corn seed closer to approval

Two genetically modified corn varieties failed to garner enough votes for approval or for dismissal in a European bid for licensing.

A European Commission science committee gave Bt-11 corn seed made by Swiss company Syngenta and 1507 seed made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroScience 127 votes for approval Wednesday. With 255 votes required for licensing, the decision will now fall on the European Commission's Council of Ministers for a decision, the EU Observer reported Thursday.

Syngenta expressed frustration over the vote. In a statement, the company said all the evidence before member states provides a firm basis for authorization.

We hope that the council will seize the opportunity provided "¦ to use a technology capable of making a significant contribution to sustainable agriculture, the company said.

The European Commission has only granted a production license to one strain of genetically modified seed, a Monsanto product approved in 1998, when rules for approval were different, the Observer noted.

Some argue that genetically modified seed bring down food prices and reduce world hunger.

Environmental groups, however, say the Bt-11 seed strain causes the corn to produce a toxin that indiscriminately affects beneficial and pest insects.