The European Commission has delayed a decision on whether farmers should be allowed to grow more genetically modified crops in the European Union, arguing that further scientific analysis was needed before approval could be given. The Commission has pushed the matter back to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), a move likely to delay approval of the crops by months.
The EFSA will now conduct further assessment of the risk of growing two GM maize crops — one developed jointly by DuPont and Dow AgroSciences of the US, the other by Switzerland's Syngenta — and a potato modified to produce extra starch, developed by German company BASF.
According to the AFP news agency, Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said: "There were doubts and it was decided to seek more clarification. If the scientific evidence confirms that the product is safe, then it will be allowed." The EU has not approved any GM crops for growing since 1998.
The news was welcomed by environmentalists who strongly oppose production of GM crops. Greenpeace International spokeswoman Geert Ritsema said: "That policy makers at the very highest levels are now questioning the safety of GM crops is very significant.
"The fact that the Commission has ordered a second investigation also raises huge questions over the EFSA's ability to do its job properly. How can we trust it to get it right on other crops if it has got it so badly wrong this time?"