Court rebukes EU Commission over GMO approval delay
* Court says delays in approval of DuPont maize unjustified
* Commission says analysing next steps following judgment
BRUSSELS, Sept 26 (Reuters) - The European Commission was to blame for lengthy delays to the EU cultivation approval process for a type of genetically modified (GM) maize, Europe's second-highest court said on Thursday.
Pioneer Hi-Bred, the agricultural seed unit of chemical conglomerate DuPont, filed a case at the European courts in 2010 claiming that the Commission had failed to act in accordance with EU rules on GM crop cultivation approvals.
The case relates to an insect-resistant maize variety sold outside Europe under the Herculex brand name, jointly developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred and Dow Chemical. An EU cultivation application for the variety was first lodged in 2001.
The court found that under the rules, the Commission should have sent a proposal for the EU Council of Ministers to approve the cultivation request in March 2010.
Instead, the Commission asked the EU's food safety watchdog EFSA to provide fresh opinions on the product's safety based on the latest scientific findings, which it blamed for the delay in the approval process.
"The Commission cannot, in a dilatory manner, repeatedly request opinions from EFSA pending the arrival of new scientific data and thereby justify its failure to submit the proposal to the Council," the court said in its judgment.
"None of the arguments put forward by the Commission justify it not having submitted the proposal," the court added, ordering the Commission to pay Pioneer Hi-Bred's legal costs.
A Commission spokesman said the EU executive was analysing the ruling and its consequences before deciding on the appropriate response.
Pioneer Hi-Bred said it now expected the Commission to send a proposal to approve cultivation to EU governments.
"Once cultivation approval is granted, DuPont Pioneer will evaluate the situation and the available options, and will take a strategic decision on the marketing of the product based on these considerations," it said in a statement.
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