Monsanto Co. said Thursday it will largely drop its bid to grow some of its genetically modified crops in Europe.
The world's largest seed-maker has nine pending applications with the European Commission, the executive body for the European Union. A spokesman said the company plans to withdraw eight of those applications.
The requests "have been going nowhere fast for several years," said Brandon Mitchener, a spokesman for the St. Louis-based company's European entity. "There’s no end in sight ... due to political obstructionism."
Many European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have bans in place against genetically-modified organisms. Public sentiment has been divided and intense over safety and environmental concerns related to cultivated crops that have been genetically engineered. Scientists have largely said these types of crops are safe.
The issue has long simmered in Europe. In 2007, seed-maker Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. of Johnston, Iowa, sued the European Commission, criticizing the body for failing to act quickly on approval requests to cultivate the company's crops.
A spokesperson for the European Commission declined by email to comment on Monsanto's move, but said the pending applications had been greenlighted by the commission's Food Safety Agency.
Monsanto said it will continue to focus on its conventional seed business. Mitchener said 98% of the company's seed sales come from that segment.
"The fact is Monsanto is doing quite well in Europe," he said. "Our current-long range plan does not have and need biotech in Europe."
The company said it plans to renew its approval request to cultivate MON810, the only genetically modified corn variety allowed to be commercially grown in Europe. That corn was first approved in 1998. No other application has been approved since then, Mitchener said.