Legal experts are carefully studying the decision on Monday (18 December) of the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers that Austria should continue its national bans on two generically modified maize varieties.

The European Commission, which wanted the bans abolished, is considering its options, because the maize - Zea Mays L line MON 810 and Zea Mays L line T 25 - were actually approved for circulation in the whole EU in 1998.

Furthermore, by failing to stop Austria maintaining its own defiant ban, the EU lost a case at the World Trade Organisation, which effectively ruled the prohibition was based on bad science.

Most council members agreed Austria's ban was a legal precaution protecting the environment, adding: "The different agricultural structures and regional ecological characteristics in the European Union need to be taken into account…." MON 810 is made by Monsanto; T25 by Bayer. Only Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic supported the Commission.