The European Commission authorized the use of Roundup Ready Corn NK603 as food products/ingredients on Monday, allowing its manufacturer, Monsanto, to significantly widen the distribution and marketing of the product.

“Jerry Hjelle, vice president of regulatory affairs for Monsanto, welcomed the EC’s decision that fell under the umbrella of the Novel Foods Regulation. “This decision not only reaffirms the findings of regulatory bodies throughout the world, it also reinforces the profound benefits and potential of this technology for growers and the environment,” he said.

The decision – which will be published in the Official Journal of the EU within the next couple of weeks - completes the necessary steps allowing for Roundup Ready Corn’s import, processing and use of NK603 grain in animal feed in the EU. According to Kerry Preete, vice president of U.S. Crop Production for Monsanto, the authorization could affect more than 200 seed companies and thousands of U.S farmers who plant biotech-enhanced hybrids.

The EU’s decision, however, excludes the approval of Roundup Ready Corn 2 for cultivation in the EU, which is the subject of a separate submission under Directive 2001/18/EC. Preete expressed optimism that the move by the EU may hint at a future decision to end the moratorium on biotech approvals.

Monsanto is currently awaiting decisions on separate submissions for its corn trait technologies combined with NK6-3. Until those submissions are complete, growers planting hybris containing Roundup Ready Corn 2 with YieldGard insect-protected technologies will need to market the grain under the Market Choices certification mark. Such notation identifies hybrids fully approved for food and feed use in the U.S. and Japan, but not in the EU.

U.S. farmers have been privy to Roundup technologies since 1998. Leon Corzine, president of the National Corn Growers Association, called the recent EU decision “long overdue.”

“Biotechnology continues to be one of the NCGA’s key priorities and this decision is certainly encouraging to U.S. corn growers,” he said.