www.czu.cz ; www.usab-tm.ro ; www.raupp.info
The European Commission won a legal battle on GMOs on Wednesday (5 October),
as the Austrian region of Upper Austria was prohibited by the EU Court to
ban the growing of genetically modified cropsOctober 2005.
In a draft law in 2003, the Austrian region completely banned the
cultivation of seeds and plants containing genetically modified organisms
The measure was taken on a precautionary basis, with the argument that
genetically modified crops could potentially damage ecosystems.
The commission, after consulting the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA),
subsequently declared Upper Austria's move illegal under EU internal market
rules - prompting a court action by the Austrians.
A commission spokeswoman told the EUobserver that the commission is
"pleased" with the ruling.
"Internal market rules have been upheld", she said.
"There is no justification for laws in member states completely banning
EU policy on GMOs is based on a 2001 EC law which provides for a
case-by-case authorisation regime for the release of GMO products on the
bloc's common market, on the basis of a safety check by both national
authorities and the EFSA.
But once a GMO product is authorised across the EU, member states can still
apply for a national or regional ban of a product on the basis of new
scientific evidence, the EC treaty says.
However, the Court of First Instance - the EU's second highest court -
argued on Wednesday that the general considerations of precaution, as put
forward by the Austrian region, constituted no proper scientific evidence
"by their general nature".
The court stated in its ruling: "When requested at the hearing to comment on
the scale of the problem posed by GMOs in the Land Oberösterreich, the
applicants were not able to state whether the presence of such organisms had
even been recorded".
The commission spokeswoman said the EU has the "safest legislation in the
world", but environmental groups question this.
Friends of the Earth Europe, an environmental NGO, says the EFSA - which has
a key role in authorising GMOs - is biased towards the interests of the
"Since its conception the EFSA has rejected virtually every concern raised
by Member States? about the safety of GM foods and crops", the NGO stated in
a press release after Wednesday's court ruling.
Friends of the Earth Europe highlighted that "Upper Austria is just one of
164 Regions and 4500 local authorities in the EU to have declared themselves
But Upper Austria was the first region to actually adopt a general ban of
GMOs - which was prohibited, first by the commission and then by the court.
The self-declared GMO-free regions may in the future still move to ban
individual GMO products, but according to the commission spokeswoman it is a
"likely scenario" that it will then be taken to court by companies.
"This has to be tested in practice", the spokeswoman said.
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