The European Commission has authorised the placing on the market of a type of genetically modified maize for use in animal feed.

The maize, known as NK603 Roundup Ready, is marketed by US biotechnology giant Monsanto. It is designed to be tolerant to the company's Roundup herbicide.

The Commission's authorisation covers the specific use for imports of the GM maize and processing for use in animal feed or for industrial purposes. Imports of the maize, whether in bulk shipments, bags or other containers, will have to be labelled as containing genetically modified maize.

"The NK603 maize has been subject to a rigorous pre-market risk assessment. It has been scientifically assessed by the European Food Safety Authority as being as safe as any conventional maize. Its safety is, therefore, not in question, and neither is the question of user or consumer choice. Clear labelling provides farmers and consumers with the information they need to decide whether to buy the product or not. And robust post-marketing rules will ensure that the product can be traced and monitored when put on the market," said Margot Wallström, commissioner for the environment.

"Monsanto welcomes the Commission's ruling on Roundup Ready Corn 2 technology," said Brett Begemann, executive vice president of international commercial for Monsanto.

"This decision is welcome progress toward completing the necessary regulatory approvals for Roundup Ready Corn 2 technology in the EU. We're hopeful that this is a signal that the European Communities and its Member States are serious about ending the moratorium on biotech approvals," Begemann added.

Earlier, the EU's Council of Ministers failed to reach a qualified majority on the use of NK603 corn and its processed products as foods and food ingredients under the Novel Foods Regulation.