While the approvals may provide processors and farmers with more choices in their food and feed supply chain, they should not hold their breath in anticipation. While the Commission has approvedproducts in the past, the bloc's parliament and individual member countries have frequently blocked products from being put on the market.
For example Syngenta's Bt176 maize, Monsanto's MON810 maize, Bayer's T25 maize and MS1xRF1 oilseed rape, and Topas' 19/2 oilseed rape are approved at the European level for use as crops. Howeverfarmers are banned from growing the crops in at least five national states.
From 1998 to 2004 the EU imposed a ban on approving any new GM crops. Tough new rules on GM ingredient food labelling imposed last year have since cleared a way to end the ban. EU law allowsmembers to ban a GMO within their borders if a government can justify the prohibition.
Monsanto's oilseed rape, known as GT73, is authorised for import and processing in the EU as animal feed, but not for cultivation or for food uses.
The current authorisation is valid for 10 years. GT73 is tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate and is already widely used in North America with no reports of any adverse effects on health or theenvironment, the Commission stated.
"The authorisation today, which is backed by science, covers the specific use for imports of the GM oilseed rape and processing for use in animal feed or for industrial purposes,"the Commission stated.
Under the authorisation Monsanto has agreed to take measures to prevent any damage to human health and the environment in the event of any accidental spillage of GT73.
The decision was based on a risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority, which stated that GT73 was as safe as any conventional oilseed rape.
GT73 will be covered by the new EU labelling and traceability rules which came into force in April 2004. When put on the market, it will need to be clearly labelled as containing geneticallymodified oilseed rape.
Post-marketing monitoring will be done through a unique identifier assigned to the oilseed rape to enable traceability.
Under the regulations, business operators must transmit and retain information about products that contain or are produced from genetically modified organisms at each stage of the placing on themarket.
"Clear labelling provides farmers and consumers with the information they need to decide whether to buy the product or not," the Commission stated. "And robustpost-marketing rules will ensure that the product can be traced and monitored when put on the market."
The first GM product approved under the EU's rules was was NK603 maize, followed by MON 863 maize.