In a controversial move, the European Commission yesterday (2 March) gave the green light for the first genetically-modified potato to be cultivated in the European Union.
The EU executive authorised the cultivation in the EU of Amflora, a genetically-modified potato developed by German chemical company BASF,
The move marked the bloc's first GM cultivation approval in 12 years.
BASF plans to begin cultivating Amflora this year on 250 hectares in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Germany. The firm said it expected peak license fees of about 20-30 million euros ($27-40.6 million) per annum.
"Responsible innovation will be my guiding principle when dealing with innovative technologies," said Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli.
After an extensive and thorough review of five pending GM files, it had become clear that there were no new scientific issues that merited further assessment, as those concerning safety had been fully addressed, the commissioner added.
The decision was based on a series of favourable safety assessments carried out over the years by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The EU executive also launched a reflection group on how to combine a European authorisation system with giving member states the freedom to decide on GMO cultivation.
Yesterday's decision includes strict cultivation conditions to prevent GM potatoes from remaining in the fields after harvest and to ensure that Amflora's seeds are not inadvertently disseminated into the wider environment, the Commission explained, in a bid to allay cross-contamination fears.
The EU executive also approved three genetically-modified maize types made by US biotech firm Monsanto for food and feed uses and import and processing in the European Union.
The EU executive said it plans to announce proposals by summer that would, if approved, allow governments to decide whether genetically modified crops can be grown within their borders.