A DuPont Co. variety of genetically modified corn stalled in the European Union’s approval system for more than 12 years may be cleared for cultivation by the EU’s executive arm after the bloc’s national governments failed to reach a decision before an appointed deadline.
At a meeting today in Brussels, EU ministers couldn’t muster a majority for or against the application. The final decision on approving the so-called Pioneer 1507 variety of insect resistant corn now falls to the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body. The European Food Safety Authority has issued six positive opinions on the variety since it was first submitted for approval by Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont’s Pioneer unit in 2001.
“The commission has to adopt, but it has to adopt within its own internal procedures,” Health Commissioner Tonio Borg told reporters after the EU meeting. With numerous EU governments including France and Italy opposed to the application and with elections to the European Parliament due in May, Borg left open the possibility of further delays linked to any fresh evidence of risks.
“If there were to be new evidence, completely new evidence, about this file, of course I will not ignore it,” Borg said.
Genetically modified crops are in widespread use in many of the world’s major growing areas, including in the U.S., the top producer and exporter of corn. Opposition in Europe prompted Monsanto Co. to say in July it planned to withdraw applications to grow six corn varieties in the bloc following more than a decade of discussions with consumers and governments. BASF SE announced in 2012 it was moving its plant-science division that works on genetically modified crops to the U.S. from Germany.
The EU General Court ruled in September that the commission failed to act in the case of DuPont’s Pioneer 1507 variety, and so in November the commission gave the national governments three months to come to an agreement on whether to approve the crop. Governments also have been unable to reach a decision on a 2010 proposal on whether individual EU countries can prohibit growing certain crops within their territories, even though eight nations have already adopted measures that restrict gene-altered crops.
DuPont said it is “confident” that the commission will adopt the decision for approval of the 1507 variety, according to an e-mailed statement today from the company’s office in Manno, Switzerland.
“Once 1507 cultivation approval is granted, we will collaborate with EU member states that wish to commercialize the product and where severe target insect pest pressure is an issue,” the company said.
Only two genetically modified crops are approved for cultivation in the EU, a Monsanto variety of corn and a type of starch potato that’s no longer in commercial use, according to the commission. The Monsanto variety represented about 1.35 percent of the 9.5 million hectares (23.5 million acres) of corn in the bloc as of 2012. DuPont 1507 and the previously approved Monsanto variety are both engineered to produce insect-killing proteins, or to produce an insecticide derived from soil bacteria.
Borg declined to say when the commission would act on the DuPont cultivation request, saying he was “very cautious about giving timelines” on the matter. DuPont rose 1.5 percent to $64.375 a share in New York.