Europe could be a step closer to approving the growing of a new GM crop after its breeder won a legal battle forcing the EU to consider the fate of maize variety 1507.

The European Commission has asked member states, including the UK, to decide, following a court ruling that Pioneer’s 2001 request for permission to cultivate the insect-resistant crop must be dealt with.

The announcement, made in Brussels by EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg, could help maize 1507 become only the second GM crop to be grown in Europe.

Mr Borg has urged member states to engage and support the Commission’s proposal.

“In the coming months, ministers will be invited to take a position on this authorisation request,” said Mr Borg.

The commission will be obliged by law to grant authorisation unless member states approve or reject the measure in a qualified majority vote.

Maize 1507, developed by US seed giant DuPont Pioneer, has resistance against harmful moth larvae for maize such as the European corn borer.

Although it is yet to have authorisation to be grown in Europe, it can already be sold as food and animal fodder.

The latest move comes 12 years after Pioneer’s initial request to cultivate the insect-repelling crop.

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) chairman Julian Little has welcomed the announcement by the EC to allow the variety to progress through the regulatory approval process.

“For too long, the approvals process has been malfunctioning, largely due to political interference from certain member states, resulting in significant delays and a substantial backlog in applications.”

Meanwhile, the commission has also urged member states to reconsider a proposal to restrict or prohibit cultivation of GMOs in their country – without the need for risks relating to health and environment.

Scientists issue GM crops safety warning