Despite a record 19 countries voting against the approval, and four abstentions, the crop could still be authorised under EU rules that weight member states’ votes according to their population size.
EU health commissioner Tonio Borg said: “The law is very clear on comitology that if there is no negative qualified majority against the proposal then the Commission not may, but shall, adopt the proposal, which is why I have insisted with ministers today – since there was no such negative qualified majority against – to revive the cultivation proposal.”
Greens/EFA co-president Dany Cohn-Bendit said approval of the crop would show disdain for the democratic process, as well as for public opposition to GM crops.
"This issue is a test of European democracy and, if the Commission doggedly pursues the authorisation of GM maize 1507 in spite of this democratic opposition, we will launch a motion of censure in the European Parliament,”he said.
A motion of censure needs to be brought to the president by 10% of MEPs to go ahead, and would be adopted if it attained the backing of more than two-thirds of members of parliament. If that were to happen, it could force the entire Commission to resign.
Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms said: “The EU's GMO authorisation process is clearly not fit for the task and there should be no further proposed authorisations until the process is finally overhauled to take account of the consistent and legitimate opposition to this controversial technology."
Open letter from MEPs
Meanwhile, 12 MEPs have signed an open letter to EU health commissioner Tonio Borg urging the Commission to withdraw its proposal to approve the GM maize.
“We are convinced that the Commission cannot ignore the legal, political and scientific concerns voiced by so many Member States and the general political landscape,” the letter said.
“We are therefore confident that, by considering the horizontal impact of the issue, the Commission will withdraw the proposal.”
The DuPont Pioneer 1507 maize has been developed for herbicide and insecticide resistance, and a request for cultivation was first filed in the EU in 2001. It has since received six positive safety opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), although its opponents claim there are still gaps in safety testing, citing particular concerns about its potential impact on butterflies and moths.
The 19 countries that voted against approving the crop were France, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Romania, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia. The five in favour were Spain, the UK, Finland, Estonia and Sweden, and the four abstentions were Germany, Portugal, Czech Republic and Belgium.
Just one GM crop is currently authorised for cultivation in the European Union, Monsanto’s MON810 maize variety, which has been modified for resistance to the European corn borer pest. BASF’s GM Amflora potato variety was approved for cultivation in the EU in 2010, but has not been grown in the region since 2011, after the company said there was a lack of market acceptance.