The European Union has approved the import of a strain of genetically modified soybean, a move announced on Monday (8 September) by the European Commission.
The bean, which bears the moniker A25704-12 and was developed by German biotechnology firm Bayer Cropscience, is now authorised to be brought to Europe to be used in food or animal feed for the next 10 years.
The decision was arrived at by the EU’s executive, the commission, after ministers from the EU member states could not come to an agreement on the subject. When ministers are blocked over approval of a particular genetically modified product, the decision passes over to the commission.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are a sensitive topic in Europe. While a strong majority of European citizens have concerns about such biotechnology – with only 27 percent in favour of GM products according to a 2006 Eurobarometer poll, ministers themselves are sharply divided.
The commission has repeatedly given its approval using this procedure, following the opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
In August 2007, EFSA said that Bayer’s A25704-12 soybean was safe for import, awarding the product a “positive safety assessment.”
The authority has long been accused of being biased in favour of the biotech industry, both by environmental groups and by certain EU member states, who say the body gives its OK to GMOs without the required research.
Anti-GMO campaigners complain that EFSA bases its investigations on data provided by the GM industry itself. It has always declared any GM crops it has studied to be safe.
The crop is to be planted widely across the United States next year. Without such authorisation, farmers in the 27-country bloc would not have been able to purchase soybeans due to contamination worries.
Soybeans are commonly used for the protein they add to animal feed.