BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Bayer CropScience said it is abandoning efforts to commercialize its genetically modified forage maize, Chardon LL, in the UK because government restrictions mean it is "economically non-viable."

That is despite the UK government giving the go-ahead for the commercial cultivation of Chardon LL last month, following field scale trials that showed the pesticide-resistant plant was less harmful to the environment than conventional varieties of maize.

The EU now requires food and animal feed with more than 0.9 percent GM content to be labeled accordingly. Margaret Beckett, UK environment secretary, imposed conditions on the approval, both to keep GM crops away from conventional varieties and to compensate farmers in the event of contamination with GM material.

These conditions included the setting up of a scheme funded by GM seed companies to compensate farmers of conventional crops for GM contamination and legislation to enforce the separation distances between fields of GM and conventional crops.

Announcing its decision, Bayer claimed that the go-ahead to plant Chardon LL confirmed it is both "safe and effective." But the details of the conditions imposed on the approval are as yet undecided, which the company said will result in "yet another open-ended period of delay" that will "make this five-year old variety economically non-viable."

Julian Little, Bayer CropScience spokesman, who also is chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, the UK body representing GM seed companies, said Bayer remains committed to the development of plant biotechnologies in the UK.

"We hope that the UK will be able to benefit from the opportunity afforded by this technology some time in the future," he said.

When it gave its qualified approval to Chardon LL, the government said it would oppose EU approval of GM oilseed rape and beet, and that any other approvals would be made case-by-case.