EU moves on GMO crops a “big step”: DuPont executive

by Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - Moves by the European Union to overhaul its approval system for genetically modified crops is a “big step forward.” but it is likely to be some time before the bloc is open to wide-spread cultivation of key crops, a leading DuPont executive said on Tuesday.

Citing a provision of reported regulatory plans to allow EU member states to “opt out” of approvals of biotech crops, DuPont executive vice president James Borel said the proposed overhaul would not eliminate many market obstacles.

“Is it ideal? No. We recognize that it’s not a slam dunk to get everything passed,” said Borel, who oversees the company’s production agriculture businesses, including key corn and soybean seed developer Pioneer Hi-Bred.

“But we think that is a big step forward so we’re hopeful,” said Borel, interviewed on the sidelines of an economic conference in Kansas City.

“It starts to get the EU to be able to take a position and say they’ve approved it,” he said “We think over time individual member states will come along and realize the benefit of the technology.”

DuPont is one of the world’s leading agricultural seed and chemical developers and has been seeking approvals for biotech crop products in the EU for years.

Reuters reported Friday that under proposals due to be adopted on July 13, the EU executive Commission will be given greater freedom to approve new genetically modified varieties for cultivation in return for letting EU governments decide whether or not to grow them.

Borel said he recently met with Maltese Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner John Dalli, who drew up the new rules.

“We think he has the right approach,” Borel said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll be successful.”

Broad consumer opposition to biotech crops has persisted for years in the European Union even as acceptance has grown around the world. Commercial GM planting in Europe last year covered less than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres), mostly in Spain, compared with 134 million hectares globally.


Separately, Borel said his company was also heartened by fresh acknowledgments by rival Monsanto Co of problems in the United States with spreading weed resistance related to glyphosate and Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide, which is used in conjunction with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn, soybeans and cotton.

Monsanto said on May 27 that it would restructure its herbicide products in an effort to help combat the spreading environmental woes of herbicide-resistant weeds, also known as “super weeds,” which many critics have blamed on the chemical giant.

Borel said his company’s herbicide sales have risen in response to the concerns about superweeds and new products designed to work with glyphosate were selling out.

“I’m glad to see that the final doubters woke up,” Borel said. “We’ve been talking about Roundup-resistance weeds for a long time. What is clear is farmers are going to need additional tools. This opens opportunities we’ve been pursuing for our products.”

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Marguerita Choy)