Published on Yahoo news, by Roddy Thomson, Match 22, 2011.
… For countries defending a flood of legal action by GM-food giants led by US-based Monsanto, it marked a potentially fatal blow for campaigners fighting to contain the march of so-called ‘Frankenfoods.’
“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.
Judges are not bound by the legal opinion, but in the vast majority of cases the argument stands.
Mengozzi said France could not block MON 810 maize by invoking a safeguard clause, inserted into European Union law in 2004, because the strain was first authorised under an earlier directive in 1998.
“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.”
Monsanto applied for MON 810 re-authorisation in 2007, for 10 years, but France the next year outlawed its growing, amid public outcry in a famously proud traditional farming nation.
The safeguard clause may not be invoked by states on their own, the court said.
Besides, in this instance, the company was not informed of the legal basis for its exclusion from the French market … (full text).