Welcomed by anti-GM campaigners, the UK, Denmark and Italy voted against allowing the GM oilseed rape, also known as GT73, onto the market while France, The Netherlands and Sweden chose the 'for' camp.
"The vote came in at 43 'for' and '57' against, with 24 states abstaining. A total of 88 votes 'for' is required for a qualified majority," a Commission spokesperson told FoodNavigator.com.
The major food use of rape, also known as canola, in North America and Europe is as a refined vegetable oil. Typically, rapeseed oil is used by itself as a salad oil or cooking oil, or blended with other vegetable oils in the manufacture of margarine, shortenings, cooking and salad oils. Canola meal, a byproduct of the oil production process, is added to livestock feed rations.
But with the 25 member states failing to reach a qualified majority yesterday on allowing Monsanto's oilseed rape, designed to resist the company's chemical herbicide, into the EU, the decision is now shunted onto the council of ministers.
The Commission must first draw up a proposal, 'as soon as possible' said the spokesperson, which will then be handed over to the council who have three months to make a decision.
Facing the fury of anti-GM campaigners, last month the Commission broke the de facto moratorium on GM foods and pushed through approval for a GM sweetcorn supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta to enter the food chain. The first approval of a GM foodstuff since 1998.
Although the member states had failed to give the green light for the GM corn, the Commission could push it through under a facet of the law known as the 'comitology procedure' - when the council fails to reach a majority decision, the Commission itself can force it through. If in the next few months the council of ministers is unable to decide on the fate of GT73, the Commission may opt to take the same path.
According to UK environmental campaigner Friends of the Earth Monsanto has failed to produce an adequate monitoring plan or an emergency plan should imported oilseed rape seeds escape into the environment, through spillage during transport for example.
"The UK must reject this unsafe and unwanted GM food," said Clare Oxborrow, Friends of the Earth's GM-Free Britain campaigner Before the vote yesterday.
Argentine or oilseed rape (Brassica napus) is grown as a commercial crop in 50 countries, with a combined harvest of over 40 million metric tonnes. The major producers of rapeseed in 2000 were China, Canada, India, Germany, France, Australia, and the UK. Canola is a genetic variation of B. napus with low levels of the natural rapeseed toxins glucosinolate and erucic acid, developed through conventional plant breeding.