September 9, 2011
EU court finds France's ban on GM corn illegal
EU's highest court declared on Thursday (September 8) France's banning of GM corn trade as illegal.
The GM variety was developed by US biotech giant Monsanto in 2008.
The French authorities did have the right to impose a moratorium on the growing of Monsanto's insect-resistant MON810 corn, but based its decision on the wrong EU legislation, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said.
In reaction to the ruling, France said its ban on MON810 corn was still valid and that it would restart a procedure if needed.
In imposing such a ban, member states must demonstrate a potentially serious risk to human or animal health or the environment, and notify EU authorities of the need to take emergency measures, the court said.
Emergency measures must be based on science and backed by an assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), according to the European Commission.
France imposed its safeguard clause against MON810 corn in February 2008, citing a "serious risk to the environment."
Six other EU countries-Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg-have similar safeguard clauses in place.
Having tried and failed to force several EU countries to lift their cultivation bans last year, the Commission proposed letting member states decide themselves whether to grow or ban GM crop cultivation.
Spokesman for EU health and consumer commissioner John Dalli said talks on the proposal would continue, but France would have to abide by the court's ruling.
French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the EU decision did not mean the end of France's ban on the MON810 corn.
If the French clause was annulled for procedure reasons, the minister said they would take a new safeguard clause under a procedure considered adequate by the European Court of Justice, because environmental questions remain unanswered.
A spokesman for Monsanto said that over the last 15 years, MON810 has proven agronomic, economic and environmental benefits and its safety has been confirmed consistently. French farmers should no longer be denied the choice to use it, adding that the ruling confirmed that the French authorities failed to follow the correct procedures when imposing the ban.