EU MEMBER states have failed to grant a licence for the import and use of the herbicide resistant GT73 oilseed rape from Monsanto, despite it having a clean bill of health from the EU‘s own Food Safety Authority.

The application for a licence was considered by the EU‘s regulatory committee on the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment on Wednesday.

It was the first time any GM product had been considered since EU enlargement on May 1 and observers were keen to see which way the 10 new member states would vote.

In the event, just three of them (Czech Republic, Latvia and Slovakia) voted for granting a licence, while six (Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Lithuania and Poland) voted against. Slovenia abstained.

Overall, for the EU-25, there were nine member states in favour, 12 against and four abstentions.

Given the split, the application will now be passed to EU farm ministers, who will be given three months to either accept or reject the application.

If they too fail to reach a firm decision either way, then the EU commission will be able to grant GT73 oilseed rape a licence under its own power.

This is the same route that Syngenta‘s Bt11 sweet maize followed, which last month became the first GM product to be granted a licence since EU environment ministers imposed a moratorium on new approvals in 1999.

Green lobby group Friends of the Earth applauded the non-result for GT73.

“This vote shows that the US cannot count on the new member states to follow their policies in the area of genetically modified food,” said GM coordinator Geert Ritsema.

Friends of the Earth maintains that the safety of GT73 rape has not been proved.

It points to a feeding study which showed rats that were fed the rape had a 15% increase in liver weights.

“UK government scientists, usually known for their pro-GM stance, have demanded a satisfactory explanation for this potentially adverse response,” said an FOE statement.

But the European Food Safety Authority concluded in March of this year that “the herbicide tolerant GM oilseed rape GT73 is as safe as conventional oilseed rape”.