This year, over 110,000 hectares of biotech crops were harvested in seven EU member states, compared to 62,000 hectares in 2006. At the moment, the only type of GM crop grown in the EU is maize, which was approved in 1998. It is not cultivated for human consumption but for animal feed. The maize contains a gene that defends the crop against the European corn borer, an insect pest that eats the stem, present primarily in southern and middle Europe but moving northwards. The greatest reported increase in GM crop cultivation is in France, which has quadrupled in size from 5,000 hectares in 1996 to over 21,000 hectares this year. Cultivated acreage in biotech crops has more than doubled in the Czech Republic and Germany, while Spain, the largest cultivator, saw increases of more than 40 per cent. The biotech industry says this proves its products are appealing to farmers and are environmentally sound. "We are delighted to see that the uptake of biotech crops is growing despite the fact that only one product is available on the European market," said Johan Vanhemelrijck, secretary general of EuropaBio. "The cultivation of biotech plants is legally possible in all EU countries and we strongly urge policy makers in Europe to give all farmers the right to choose the products which they think are best to protect their crops and increase their competitiveness." However, some campaigners are concerned about the impact GM crops have on the environment, and have said the figures are not as encouraging as the biotech industry claims. According to environmental charity Friends of the Earth, the total maize growing area in 2006 was reported to be just over six million hectares, meaning that GM maize accounts for less than 2 per cent of total production. "This is after nine years of commercialisation of this product - not exactly impressive," Friends of the Earth campaigner Clare Oxborrow told FoodNavigator.com. "We have done a comprehensive analysis, using industry and government figures, showing that GM crops have failed to deliver on the EU's own goals of competitiveness, compared with the thriving organic sector." Oxborrow continued: "It is also worth pointing out that all GM maize grown in Europe goes into animal feed. Consumers in Europe have rejected GM foods, and labelling rules allow us to avoid foods with GM ingredients." Last week, President Sarkozy announced a moriatum on the commercial cultivation of GM crops in France, pending a review of the sector. This means that no new crops can be planted until the country's biotech position is made clear. The decision is part of a green revolution embarked upon by the French government. One of the main concerns that sparked the decision was that pollination of GM crops could cross-contaminate non-GM crops grown in the vicinity. EuropaBio's figures were released in advance of today's Environmental Council meeting in Luxembourg, which discussed proposals on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms. The Council also voted on Austria's safeguard measures on the import and processing into food and feed of two types of genetically modified maize, MON810 and T25. Because 21 out of 27 EU environment ministers refused to force the import ban to be lifted, the decision now lies in the hands of the European Commission.