* Court says delays in approval of DuPont maize unjustified
* Commission says analysing next steps following judgment
BRUSSELS, Sept 26 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
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.