Europe’s second-highest court (the EU General Court), on 13 December 2013, overturned a decision by the European Commission to allow the cultivation and sale of a genetically modified potato developed by BASF (here). The Amflora potato is genetically modified to produce extra starch for industrial starch production and animal feed use.

The EU General Court made this ruling because they took the view that the EU’s executive had departed from the rules governing the authorisation procedures. This ruling came after Hungary, France, Austria, Poland and Luxembourg challenged an EU Commission decision in 2010 that had cleared BASF’s Amflora potato for cultivation and sale within the EU.

While Amflora is no longer grown in Europe (BASF withdrew the product in 2012, citing opposition to the technology), this latest ruling may raise further concerns about the EU’s approval system for GMO crops.

It could also delay a decision on a separate Commission proposal to approve cultivation of a new type of modified maize, developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical (Pioneer-DuPont’s GM maize 1507).

Currently, only one GMO crop is grown commercially in Europe – an insect-resistant maize developed by Monsanto. It is sown on about 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of farmland, mainly in Spain. This compares with an estimated 170 million hectares of GMO crop cultivation globally, mainly in the Americas and parts of Asia.

While repeated EU scientific assessments have concluded that GMO crops are as safe for humans and the environment as their conventional counterparts, consumer opposition to the technology in Europe remains strong.