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July 09, 2008

EU farm ministers to debate GM soybean, cotton imports

European Union farm ministers will this week debate whether to allow imports of genetically modified strains of cotton and soybeans to be used as food ingredients and in animal feed, a document showed on Monday.

If approved, which diplomats say is unlikely, the two GM crops would be grown outside the European Union and then imported as finished products for further processing. Both have been developed by Germany's Bayer CropScience.

EU countries rarely agree on GMO issues and discussions on authorizing imports of new modified products usually end in deadlock.

When ministers fail to reach a majority under a complex weighted voting system either to reject or approve the application, EU law provides for the European Commission, the bloc's executive, to issue a default approval.

The ministers' meeting is scheduled for July 15. Neither GM product would be approved for cultivation inside the EU.

The cotton, known as LLCotton25, has been engineered to resist certain herbicides. If approved, which would be for a standard 10 years, LLCotton25 seeds and derived products could be imported for use as food -- crushed into oil, for example -- as well as animal feed, like cottonseed meal and seed hulls.

Bayer's soybean, developed to resist glufosinate herbicides, is known by its codename A2704-12 and would be imported into EU markets either as whole soybeans, oil or meal. It would then be processed by European companies for use in food and animal feed.


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