European Union Ends Ban on Genetically Modified Food

The European Union today approved the import of a genetically modified, insect-resistant strain of sweet corn, thereby ending its six-year ban on new biotech foods. For now the corn can only be imported, not grown in Europe, but an application for its cultivation is pending — one of 33 applications for cultivation or breeding of biotech crops in Europe. The constituent E.U. governments were bitterly deadlocked on the issue, but the E.U. executive body in Brussels came down on the side of biotech. David Byrne, the E.U. commissioner for health and consumer protection, said that the product, a strain of corn called Bt11 produced by Swiss-based company Syngenta, was approved after “the most rigorous pre-marketing assessment in the world” and that now “it is a question of consumer choice.” Biotech products in Europe will be subject to strict labeling laws that went into effect last month. The E.U. has been under intense pressure from the U.S., a stalwart proponent of biotech products, to lift the biotech ban.