Meeting this week, ministers from the 25 member states failed to reach a majority to authorise into Europe imports of Monsanto's GM maize GA21.
Despite tough new rules on the labelling of GM ingredients for food products, member states still need to be convinced that introducing genetically modified ingredients into food production is acceptable.
Since November 2003, the European Commission has asked EU states ten times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product. But by all accounts a damp squib, in nine cases there was no agreement on the proposal and in one case the vote was postponed.
Under this latest vote, 12 countries abstained, eight voted in favour (including the UK and the Netherlands) and five voted against (France, Portugal) Monsanto's GA21, modified to be tolerant to the company's glyphosate herbicide.
To date, only two crops, Bt11 sweetcorn from Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta whose approval broke the EU ban, and NK603 maize designed by biotech giant Monsanto, have been approved under regulation (EC) No 97/258 on novel foods, in May and October 2004 respectively.
On both occasions, approval was pushed through by the Commission, under an obscure facet of European law known as the 'comitology procedure'.
Critics of GM foods claim Brussels is caving into pressure from the US, the number one exporter of GM food crops. Brussels, in response, affirms the tough new laws on GM foodstuff labelling in Europe, some of the most stringent in the world, paved the way for entry of GM foods: by flagging up a GM ingredient on the food label, and therefore placing the decision to buy the product firmly in the hands of the consumer.
Parallel to the decision to clear, or not, imports of GM ingredients into Europe are discussions on the cultivation of certain GM crops on European soil. Meeting with strong opposition from environmental groups, there are proposals to allow the cultivation of maize 1507, jointly developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and Dow Agroscience unit Mycogen seeds.
The decision that now lies with the ministers of the member states.
The 'pro' camp was given a boost last week after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in its first ever assessment on GM crop growing, cleared the 1507 maize.