[AT] EU Environmental Ministers confirm Austrian import ban on GM maize

On 18 December, the Council of European Ministers of the Environment agreed to support the Austrian import ban on the GM maize lines MON810 and T25. With this decision, the Council voted against the proposal of the European Commission, which had asked member states to remove national import bans.

Referring to an opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Commission argued that the reasons for the ban presented by the Austrian government were unsound. The Commission also said that a national ban was not in line with WTO rules on international trade.

However, the European Ministers of the Environment rejected the Commission's proposal with a qualified majority. Great Britain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Sweden supported the Commission's draft at the Brussels meeting. Finland abstained, and the remaining member states voted against the Commission's proposal.

The ministers stated two reasons for their decision. Firstly, the GM maize lines MON810 and T25 have not been re-assessed yet according to the guidelines laid out in Directive 2001/18/EC. Secondly, the ministers called for a more thorough consideration of regional ecological conditions in the assessment of the environmental risks of GM plants.

The reaction of the Commission to this decision is still unsure. Another attempt to lift the national import ban remains possible, and the Commission may also appeal against the decision at the European Court of Justice.