An advocate general to the European Court of Justice has reportedly issued an opinion stating that French authorities violated European Union (EU) law by suspending the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) maize on French soil without first asking the European Commission to adopt emergency measures. While such opinions do not bind the court, sources indicate that they are generally adopted. The opinion is apparently expected to affect policies in other member nations, such as Austria and Greece, that turned to the court for guidance after GM crop companies filed suit challenging national restrictions.
According to Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi, the EU authorized cultivation of the GM seed at issue for animal feed in 1998, and when Monsanto sought reauthorization of the 10-year license in 2007, France outlawed the seed’s cultivation. The country invoked an EU law safeguard provision, adopted in 2004, that provides where “new or additional information” emerging after original consent shows that a product “constitutes a risk to human health or the environment,” an EU state “may provisionally restrict or prohibit” the GM organism. Mengozzi opined that this provision cannot be invoked by member states on their own, because only Europeanwide action is sufficient to protect health and the environment. See Reuters, Agence France Presse, March 22, 2011; Courthouse News Service, March 24, 2011.