EU clarifies protocol for banning GMOs

Member states must establish link between GMO crop and 'serious' risk

The European Union’s high court has ruled that France erred in its ban on genetically altered corn, and has clarified the means by which member states can invoke a safeguard clause against cultivation of genetically modified organisms.

Monsanto sought review after France banned a type of genetically modified corn used in animal feed. The EU authorized the corn, which contains genes modified to combat a corn parasite, in 1998. The court ruled that cultivation of a GMO authorized as an existing product and pending renewal may not be suspended under a 2001 EU directive that applies to all GMOs, and France had used this directive for its ban. Member states may, however, invoke the safeguard clause under a 2003 directive related to GMOs for human or animal consumption, though this may be done only through a specific procedure, according to the court.

Member states must officially inform the European Commission as quickly as possible, the court’s ruling said, and must establish a link between the GMO crop and “serious” risk, in a complete scientific evaluation involving the European Food Safety Authority. Such a risk assessment may be based on the precautionary principle.