EU member states have rejected a European Commission (EC) proposal to authorise the first new GM crops for cultivation since the late 1990s, reported FoodIngredientsFirst on 30 January.

The EC had proposed to allow two GM maize types for growing from Syngenta and Dow-Pioneer – BT11 and 1507 – as well as renewing the only GM maize currently approved for cultivation in Europe, Monsanto’s Mon810.

The three crops had been genetically modified to produce insecticide in their own cells and the two new maize types could tolerate Bayer’s glufosinate herbicide, FoodIngredientsFirst said.

A majority of national governments rejected the proposal but failed to get the qualified majority (55% of member states representing 65% of the population) necessary to ban the GM crops outright.

"The EC has failed to get political support for GM crops since the biotech industry first tried to push them through in 1998,” said Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, in the report. “President Jean-Claude Juncker promised to make decisions about GM crops more democratic, and so it is now time for the Commission to reject them once and for all. This saga is distracting us from the real debate we need on how we make farming resilient to climate change, save family farms and stop the destruction of nature. It's time to close our countryside to GM crops and move on."

The EC is the EU’s politically independent executive arm and is alone responsible for drawing up proposals for new European law, as well as implementing the decisions of the European Parliament and Council of the EU.

Under EU rules, the EC could now either reject the GM authorisations, change their details and ask governments to vote again, or send them to an appeal committee, the report said.

FoodIngredientsFirst reported that for the renewal of Mon810, 12 member states voted against the proposal: Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland and Slovenia. Ten member states voted in favour: Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Six member states abstained: Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia.

For authorisation of BT11 and 1507, 13 countries voted against (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden); eight countries voted in favour (Estonia, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Spain and the UK); and seven abstained (Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia).