Field of crops

Monsanto has said it will withdraw its pending requests to cultivate GM crops in Europe

Monsanto is to withdraw eight requests to grow genetically modified crops in the European Union, citing lack of commercial prospects on the Continent.

The US agri-giant said it will now focus on raising conventional crops, although it will continue to support its one GM crop in Europe – the MON810 maize that is grown in Spain and primarily sold in Spain and Portugal.

“We will no longer be pursuing approvals for cultivation of new biotech crops in Europe. We will focus on enabling imports of biotech crops into the EU and the growth of our current business there,” Monsanto said.

The move comes just weeks after Defra secretary of state Owen Paterson said the use of GM could be “as transformative as the original agricultural revolution”, and warned that Europe risked driving away “scientific and intellectual capital” if it did not do more to embrace the technology.

Monsanto, which described its European business as “strong and growing”, said it would invest “several hundred million dollars” in the Continent over a decade to expand its conventional seed production and breeding.

GM crops have faced resistance in Europe, with countries such as France and Germany enacting bans on the cultivation of MON810. The only other GM crop approved for cultivation in Europe is a potato called Amflora, produced by BASF. Amflora was approved in 2010 but failed to find take-up among farmers. In January, BASF announced it would stop seeking approval for its GM potato varieties in Europe.