The EU's food safety agency should give its first risk analysis this year of live genetically modified (GMO) crops -- an issue that has split the bloc's membership down the middle.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will assess the safety of two GMO maize varieties whose manufacturers have requested cultivation as a use when they applied for an EU-wide authorization, officials said on Monday.

The two products are Bt-11 sweet maize, marketed by Switzerland's Syngenta, and 1507 maize, jointly made by Pioneer Hi-Bred International -- a subsidiary of DuPont Co.-- and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds.

EFSA scientists had been due to give their opinion last September on the two types of maize, modified to resist field insects such as the European corn borer, but have asked for more data.

"The clock is stopped when we send out the request for more information -- but we don't know how long we have to wait to get it. Then we have 90 days (to evaluate)," an EFSA official said.

Set up in 2002, EFSA's views are used by the European Commission as independent scientific opinion on the safety risk of GMO products for entry into the food chain, for consumption by humans and animals and for release into the environment.

So far, EFSA has assessed GMOs where the requested uses have not included the actual growing of biotech crops -- a highly sensitive area forgovernments since many issues have yet to be resolved over possible crop contamination and environmental liability. Scientists at the agency, which will move to the Italian city of Parma later this year, are expecting to assess several other GMOs this year for use in food and feed products -- including biotech rice and sugar beet -- but only two so far have a specified date for an opinion.

These are 1507 maize again, for which a food use assessment is due in March, and a hybrid maize from Monsanto known as MON863/MON810, where its view is due in June.

Source: Yahoo News