EU states must tell Brussels of GM bans: court
EU states must notify the European Commission before banning genetically-modified crops with proof of risk for humans, animals or the environment, Europe's highest court said Thursday.
The European Court of Justice's opinion follows a series of battles between European Union nations with a distaste for GM crops and the biotech industry, and comes two days after a key ruling on honey containing traces of GM pollen.
The latest opinion stems from a legal battle between France and the US biotech giant Monsanto, which is seeking to overturn the French government's decision in 2007 to prohibit the genetically-modified MON 810 maize.
Six other nations have banned Monsanto's maize from their territory: Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg.
The European Commission is willing to let individual EU states ban GM crops, on certain grounds designed to get round World Trade Organization rules, but only if Brussels is notified first.
MON 810, which is used for animal feed and is resistant to certain parasites, is one of only two GM crops to have been authorised in the 27-nation European Union. The other is German group BASF's Amflora potatoes, used to make paper.
Monsanto and the French government are locked in a battle before France's top court, the Conseil d'Etat, which asked the EU court of justice to issue an opinion on the rules that apply for the authorisation of GM crops.
The Luxembourg-based court said that while France could adopt emergency measures, it should have applied a different set of EU rules.
"The member state must therefore inform the commission 'officially' of the need to take emergency measures," the court said.
"If the commission fails to act, the member state must inform it and the other member states 'immediately' of the content of the interim measures which it has adopted," it said.
The rules also require an EU state to "establish, in addition to urgency, the existence of a situation which is likely to constitute a clear and serious risk to human health, animal health or the environment."
In a separate ruling on Tuesday, the court said that honey containing even tiny traces of pollen from GM maize could not be sold in the 27-nation bloc without prior authorisation.
© 2011 AFP