According to media sources, the EU Council of Ministers’ Legal Service has expressed “strong doubts” about the feasibility of a proposal that would allow individual member states to set their own policies for regulating genetically modified (GM) crops. The opinion has reportedly raised questions about whether the legislation would violate World Trade Organization rules, especially since a GM crop ban based on ethical rather than environmental or health concerns would be difficult to uphold in European courts. An EU official has quoted the opinion, which was due to be officially presented on November 11, as saying that, “Economic arguments cannot be relied upon… so the obvious remaining candidate would therefore be ethical reasons.”

Also referring to this “leaked” legal opinion, the Institute for Environmental Studies at the VU University Amsterdam has hailed the report as validating the views of its own biotechnology law specialist, Thijs Etty. “This is a sensitive and embarrassing blow for the EU Commission’s proposal. As guardian of the Treaty, its primary task is to safeguard the functioning of the EU internal market and to uphold European law. Instead, today’s Council’s legal service report reveals that the Commission’s proposal was grounded on a fundamentally flawed legal basis and impairs the internal market,” stated Etty in a November 11, 2010, press release. Additional details about the proposed regulations appear in Issue 356 of this Update. See Reuters, November 8, 2010.