Food european_court_of_justice

Published on March 23rd, 2011 | by Jeremy Bloom

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Is Europe’s ban on Monsanto’s GMO crops illegal?

european_court_of_justiceMonsanto got a big boost in Europe yesterday when an official ruled that the European Union’s constituent countries couldn’t independently ban genetically modified crops (GMOs) on their turf. France and five other EU countries have put a blanket ban on GMOs, citing safety concerns.

The top legal advisor to the European Court of Justice, Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi,, ruled that only the EU itself could institute such bans.

“The French authorities could not suspend the cultivation of genetically-modified maize MON 810 on national territory without having first asked the European Commission to adopt emergency measures citing a risk to health and the environment,” Mengozzi said.

That seems pretty straightforward, but it gets weirder.

France had banned the GMO corn under an emergency provision known as the Safeguard Clause, which was created in 2004. Since MON 810 corn had first been authorized in 1998, Mengozzi decided that clause couldn’t apply. If it was really an emergency, Mengozzi said, then the EU had to act as a whole. That would be the only way to protect health and safety… ignoring the fact that the EU as a whole had not been ABLE to act, which is why the member states had done it on their own.

This just goes to show why it’s best to have policies laid out on a straightforward basis, not implemented – or overturned – based on technicalities.

This ruling in and of itself doesn’t overturn anything just yet, but the court generally follows Mengozzi’s recommendations, and officials will likely tailor policy to that reality.

So while France doesn’t have to open the floodgates tomorrow… this definitely ups the pressure on Europe to let Monsanto in.

As Matthew McDermott notes at Treehugger,

For background context… remember that according to documents released by Wikileaks there has been pressure from US officials on various nations of the European Union to accept the planting of GM crops from US-based companies.

France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece have all blocked GMOs.

“European law has been improved — and the newer article gives states the right to present new scientific proof of a risk to health,” Friends of the Earth expert Mute Schimpf told AFP.

“France took its decision following widespread consultation of the industry, the scientific community, farmers and consumers.

“Why should a company have a right under European Union law to attack a democratic state in this way?

“If the judges take the same view, it would mean not one single member state has the right to ban GM crops, except the two already authorised,” she railed, admitting “huge surprise.”

Current status of GMOs in Europe:

  • Only two GMO crops are approved to be grown by EU farmers: Monsanto’s MON810 corn and the BASF’s Amflora potato.
  • The license for MON810 corn is up for renewal this year, with pressure coming from both the pro and anti-GMO forces.
  • Dozens of GMO crops can be imported into Europe,
  • Last month for the first time judges allowed GMOs in small amounts as contaminants in other crops (this has been an issue with imported GMO alfalfa).
  • The US has been lobbying hard to get all restrictions removed, considering it an issue of unfair trade (with GMOs making up 95% of US corn and soybean production, it does limit what we can export).

More on Monsanto and GMOs:




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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He just moved to Los Angeles, and continues trying to change the world in positive ways.



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