Germany high court upholds genetically modified crop restrictions

[JURIST] Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] on Wednesday upheld restrictions [judgment, in German; press release] on the use of genetically modified (GM) crops. The German state of Saxony-Anhalt had challenged the 2008 law, which requires "buffer zones" between GM and conventional crops. The law also mandates that GM farmers compensate neighbors if their crops become contaminated. Upholding the restrictions, the court found that the legislature acted in the public interest. The ruling was welcomed [AFP report] by environmental groups such as Greenpeace [advocacy website], but the German Farmer's Association said that the risk of financial liability was too great and warned against planting GM crops.

Courts and legislatures around the world have struggled with the increasingly prevalent issue of GM crops. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in Monsanto Company v. Geerston Seed Farms [Cornell LII backgrounder] that a trial court abused its discretion when it issued a nationwide injunction against a genetically modified alfalfa seed. The trial court sought to remedy a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) [EPA materials] violation based on only a remote possibility of reparable harm. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that NEPA plaintiffs are specially exempt from the requirement of showing a likelihood of irreparable harm to obtain an injunction, affirming the nationwide injunction. Justice Samuel Alito, writing the opinion of the court, reversed the circuit court's ruling, stating that NEPA violations, absent unusual circumstances, are not exempt from the standard four-factor test to determine the availability of injunctive relief.

 

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