Brussels, 30 October - Austria's ban on genetically modified maize now lies in the hands of the European Commission, after 21 out of 27 EU Environment Ministers refused to force the ban to be lifted today. Friends of the Earth Europe has urged the European Commission to respect member states' wariness and leave Austria's ban in place.
The Environment Council was today voting on a proposal from the European Commission to force Austria to allow import and processing of the GM maize crops. But the necessary majority was not reached to pass the proposal.
At a previous vote on these national bans , EU member states voted against dropping the bans because of unknown impacts on farming systems. As a result of this opposition, the European Commission took cultivation of the GM maize out of today's vote.
Helen Holder, GMO Campaign Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe said:
"The other member states are extremely uncomfortable about bullying Austria over its bans on genetically modified maize. The European Commission has tried to make its proposal to lift the bans as palatable as possible by focusing only on imports instead of growing, but still member states haven't supported it. The Commission must respect the right of Austria to respond to scientific uncertainty and public opinion by keeping its bans in place."
One of the GM maize banned by Austria is engineered to produce an insecticide. Last week, press reports revealed that the European Commission's DG Environment is opposed to the cultivation of similar types of maize crops because of scientific uncertainties.
Also last week, France announced its decision to freeze the cultivation of GM crops because of inadequacies in risk assessment. 
Friends of the Earth Europe continues to highlight that genetically modified crops are not successful in Europe. Despite constant pressure from the United States and the biotechnology industry, and following 10 years of commercialisation, GM cultivation in Europe accounts for less than 2 percent of maize production - as confirmed by the biotech industry yesterday.
Countries that voted against the lifting of the ban were:
Austria, France, Poland, Denmark, Cyprus, Slovakia, Ireland, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Malta, Luxembourg, Greece
Belgium, Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Portugal
 Environment Council voted to block Commission's proposal to force Austria to drop its bans, December 18th 2006. The Council issued a statement raising concerns at the impact of these crops on farming systems