The speed of genetically modified crop authorizations in the EU is slowing, taking an average of 15 to 20 months longer than in the three top global exporters of GM crops (the U.S., Brazil and Canada), according to biotech association EuropaBio.

The delay has caused the number of GM crops awaiting approval to rise from 50 at the end of 2007 to 72 currently — 51 for import and 21 for cultivation. According to EuropaBio, more than 90 products may be awaiting approval by 2015. Only two GM products are currently approved for cultivation in Europe, compared to 90 in the U.S. and 28 in Brazil. "The EU authorization process for GM products takes substantially longer than comparable systems, despite the fact that government processes around the world to assess the safety and impact of GM products are essentially the same," said EuropaBio.

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"It's a double whammy — we don't allow farmers to import these GM crops because they haven't been approved here, and you can't cultivate them either," said EuropaBio Secretary General Nathalie Moll. "We're putting ourselves into a corner." EuropaBio has called for the European Commission to set targets for reducing the backlog of applications.