The Austrian government had banned each maize by invoking the EU 'safeguard' clause that regulates the national implementation of a provisional ban on genetically modified organisms. Prerequisite to such action is the detection of new threats to the environment or human health.
The maize types in question had been subjected to risk assessments by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Although both types were declared safe, the Austrian government had argued for the preservation of "different agricultural structures and regional ecological characteristics". In enacting the bans, Austria also referred to uncertainties with regard to the effect of both types of maize on butterflies, as well as to a study in which rats fed with MON810 displayed lowered fertility.
In an opinion published in December, 2008, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) argued that Austria had failed to supply decisive evidence on Austrian ecological particularities that would necessitate such bans. EFSA further declared that no new evidence had been presented that would invalidate the categorisation of MON810 and T25 as safe.
The EFSA opinion forms the basis of the new proposal by the Commission. In 2007, the Commission already had attempted to oblige the Austrian government to lift the bans but was unable to gather sufficient support from EU environment ministers. Discussion of the proposal will take place at the meeting of environment ministers on March 2nd, 2009.