US seed manufacturer Monsanto is to
end attempts to market new genetically modified (GM) plant seed in
the European Union, a company spokesman said on Thursday, after it
failed to overcome opposition within the bloc.
GM crops have met with strong resistance in Europe, amid health and environmental concerns.
"We will successively withdraw pending licence applications for the cultivation of genetically improved agricultural crops ... in consultation with our partners and after clarifying possible obligations," Monsanto said in a statement from its German office.
The decision would affect new varieties of maize, as well as soy beans and certain types of beet. EU applications for all are pending.
Monsanto said that it would, however, continue to sell its MON 810 genetically modified maize seed, stating that it had found "the necessary environment for the successful marketing of these varieties." The company also sells conventional seeds.
Monsanto has four pending applications to market genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the EU, including one renewing the licence for MON 810, which is sown largely in Spain, according to a spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg.
"Effectively in the EU, in a certain number of states, there is reticence over the cultivation of GMOs. That is a fact," said spokesman Frederic Vincent, adding that they covered about 100,000 hectares in the bloc, compared to 170 million hectares globally.
German rival BASF announced last year that it was moving its GMO operations to the United States, due to a lack of acceptance from consumers in Europe.
Environmental campaigners welcomed Monsanto's decision, but called for more action to eliminate genetically modified produce from Europe.
"There is no market for GM crops in Europe: the public doesn't want them, farmers don't want them," said Mute Schimpf, a food campaigner with Friends of the Earth, adding, however, that Monsanto's "toxic presence" had not gone entirely.
"They still plan to grow their main GM crop in Europe, seek to widen their control over conventional seeds and increase their sales of chemicals that pollute the countryside and our bodies," Schimpf said.
"Continued rejection by farmers, consumers and governments will ultimately lead Monsanto to also withdraw its MON 810 GM maize, the last remaining GM crop grown in Europe," added Herman Van Bekkem of environmental campaign group, Greenpeace.
Thursday's decision does not affect the import of crops grown from GM seed outside Europe.
Last week, the European Commission paved the way for maize grown from SmartStax seed developed by Monsanto and Dow Agro Sciences to reach shops in Europe, with the official green light expected in the coming weeks.
SmartStax plants produce six different types of insecticide and are resistant to certain weed killers, but have prompted concerns over their safety to consumers.
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