EU member states have agreed that they should make their own national decisions about whether to approve genetically modified foods. Previously, states were required in most cases to implement decisions made by Brussels.
According to Thursday's compromise, the EU's 28 member states now have the right to ban genetically modified (GM) foods from their national markets, even if the product in question has been approved by regulators in Brussels.
Alternatively, member states that want to permit GM foods are allowed to do so.
"The new system guarantees that the member states have a choice," French Environment Minister Segolene Royal said.
Only Belgium and Luxembourg voted against Thursday's decision. Luxembourg's environment minister, Carole Dieschbourg, expressed concern that some member states could opt to approve many new GM foods.
The European Parliament still has to approve Thursday's compromise decision.
Opposition to GM foods is strong in many European countries over concerns about potential negative health and environmental effects. But EU regulators have approved many GM crops as safe. GM crops are imported into the EU in large quantities for animal feed.
slk/hc (AFP, epd)