The European Court of Justice has held that Member States may not adopt emergency measures prohibiting genetically modified food and feed (GMOs) unless there is clear evidence that a particular GMO presents a serious risk to health or the environment in accordance with Article 34 of the GMO Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003.

Ruling in favour of farmers of genetically modified maize, the ECJ held that the precautionary principle, allowing provisional risk management measures where the possibility of harmful effects has been identified (but not conclusively established), should not be interpreted as relaxing the so-called “safeguarding clause” in Article 34. In this case, referred to the ECJ by an Italian District Court, new evidence of potential harm from studies carried out by Italian research institutes was not sufficient to support the requested emergency measures and invalidate the previous authorisation of genetically modified maize by the European Food Safety Authority.

While the majority of EU consumers remain averse to GM crops, this ruling shows that Member States will require conclusive scientific evidence in order to rely on the safeguarding clause which has previously been used to prevent the growth of GMOs.

You can read the full judgment of Fidenato and Others (C-111/16) here.