Germany said Tuesday it was banning a type of genetically-modified maize manufactured by US biotech giant Monsanto, the only GM crop permitted until now in the country.
Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told reporters she was outlawing the cultivation of MON 810 maize -- modified to be super resistant against crop-destroying insects -- on environmental grounds.
"I have come to the conclusion there are just reasons to assume that the genetically-modified maize MON 810 represents a danger for the environment," Aigner said.
"Therefore, the cultivation of MON 810 is now banned in Germany."
The environment ministry had undertaken a "rigorous study to weigh the pros and cons," she said, adding that "new scientific elements" had come to light justifying the decision to ban the GM crop.
The harvesting of GM crops -- dubbed Frankenfoods by their opponents -- has become a hotly-contested issue throughout Europe and provoked a split in the 27-member European Union.
Germany is the sixth EU country to introduce a provisional ban on MON 810, following similar action taken by France, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg and Greece.
The European Commission sought to force Austria and Hungary to reverse their bans on the crop but its ruling was overturned by a majority of EU nations last month.
Spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau said: "the Commission will analyse the ban by Germany and ... decide on the most appropriate follow-up to this situation."
German environmental groups hailed Tuesday's decision.
"This is a welcome change of course from the environment ministry. Neither German consumers nor farmers want genetically-modified plants," said Leif Miller, head of Germany's Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, NABU.
"A ban on MON 810 was overdue and is an important step in the right direction."
According to the US lobby group ISAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech), the use of GM crops is steadily increasing.
Around 125 million hectares contained genetically-modified plants in 2008, a rise of almost 10 percent on the previous year, according to ISAA statistics.
Some 13.3 million farmers sowed GM crops last year, 1.3 million more than in 2007, the group said. Seventy-two percent of soya was genetically modified worldwide along with nearly half the planet's wool production.