The EU Council of Ministers has flouted the appeal - made only last week - by EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel to stop shirking responsibility over approving genetically modified food for sale.

Fischer Boel had pressed ministers to take decisions when proffered European Food Safety Authority advice that a GM product is safe, arguing that the resulting delays would lead to unauthorised GM materials contaminating other cargoes, forcing their seizure. She also warned that the World Trade Organisation may be asked to intervene because the Council is ignoring scientific advice pointing to the safety of GM foods.

But yesterday (19 October), the council refused to decide applications for selling three types of GM maize. As in earlier cases - its communiqué noted "the Commission is now entitled to finalise the decision-making procedure", meaning more delays over authorisation.