Channel NewsAsia

EU allows cultivation of new US genetically modified corn

EU ministers allowed the controversial cultivation of a new genetically modified crop, US firm Pioneer's TC1507 corn, after opponents failed on Tuesday to muster enough support against the move.

BRUSSELS: EU ministers allowed the controversial cultivation of a new genetically modified crop, US firm Pioneer's TC1507 corn, after opponents failed on Tuesday to muster enough support against the move.

A meeting of European Affairs ministers could not establish a majority either way, Greek chairman Evangelos Venizelos said.

Accordingly, TC1507 was allowed through, after Venizelos asked for legal advice.

The rules require that "if the Council (of member states) does not take a decision, then the measure has to be adopted by the European Commission", a legal adviser said.

The Commission, the EU's executive arm, was on the spot after a European Court ruled late last year that the company's 2001 request for approval had to be dealt with without further delay.

Cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms stokes widespread suspicion in the 28-nation EU on health and environmental grounds.

GM crops, however, have won repeated safety approvals and several ministers noted on Tuesday that they are imported into the EU in large amounts, and having been fed to animals, had by now entered the human food chain.

The General Affairs Council of ministers had to decide the issue on Tuesday under what is known as "qualified majority voting".

This complex system weighs member states according to their size to ensure that it is a majority of the EU's 500 million population which decides an issue, not the simple number of countries for or against.

In this instance, some 19 member states opposed, mustering 210 votes out of a required 260 to block the measure.

Britain, Finland, Estonia, Spain and Sweden were in favour but abstentions proved crucial.

Germany, the EU's most powerful and biggest country with 19 votes, changed its position to abstain from against, thereby taking itself out of the balance.

Also abstaining were Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic with 12 votes each.

France and Hungary led the opposition and the arguments, saying ministers would not be able to easily explain the outcome to the public.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna