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EU May Suspend Corn Gluten Imports Because of GE Contamination

EU considers suspending U.S. corn gluten imports in biotech dispute

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The European Union is considering suspending imports of corn gluten animal feed from the United States after shipments of an unauthorized genetically modified corn were sent to the EU, a spokesman said Monday.

The dispute concerns U.S. handling of a case involving a type of biotech animal feed called Bt10 that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval.

EU spokesman Philip Tod said the EU would consider a temporary ban after a meeting of European food safety experts Tuesday and a meeting Monday between Syngenta's CEO Michael Pragnell and EU Health Commissioner Markos Kypriano. He said the decision to suspend imports could depend on Syngenta providing European authorities with a method for detecting Bt-10.

Syngenta said last week it has reached a settlement with the U.S. government over the inadvertent sale to farmers of Bt-10, which was not been approved by American or European regulators.

The company said in a statement that under the settlement reached with the U.S. Agriculture Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it would pay a fine of US$375,000 (euro270,000) and teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules.

However, the EU has been annoyed that U.S. authorities allowed the export of Bt-10 to Europe after it was mixed up with an authorized biotech Syngenta maize labeled Bt-11. ``We are extremely disappointed that a non-authorized GMO has entered the European Union,'' Tod said. ``We demanded assurances that this would not occur again.'' He said a ban could remain in place until the EU was given a means of detecting Bt-10 or received assurances from Washington that feed consignments were no longer contaminated.

The EU says around 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of BT10 seeds were imported into Spain and France for research purposes, but were later destroyed. About 1,000 tons of animal feed and food products such as oil and flour containing the corn are thought to have entered the EU since 2001.

The case has underscored European concerns about biotech foods, coming shortly after the EU relaxed restrictions on genetically modified organisms. Tod said U.S. imports of corn gluten feed reached about 3.5 million tons a year, but he was unable to give a monetary value for them.

He said the EU's head office had no powers to fine Syngenta, but said national governments in Europe could do so.

This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the Ecological Farming Association <