The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [case materials; press release, PDF] Thursday that France's ban on the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) maize was illegal. Although France has the right to impose a ban on GM maize, the court stated that France acted illegally by not following proper EU protocol [Reuters report]. In order to impose a ban, EU members must demonstrate that the product poses a serious risk to the environment or human or animal health, and notify the European Commission [official website] authorities of the need to take emergency measures. The GM maize was developed by US biotech giant Monsanto [corporate website] in 2008. The use of GM organisms, whether through experimentation or cultivation, is governed by EU law. France issued two orders prohibiting the planting of MON 810 maize seed, which is primarily used to make animal feed resistant to certain parasites. France first banned the product by way of emergency measures in 2007.
In March, ECJ Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi issued an opinion [JURIST report] stating that a French ban on cultivating genetically modified (GM) crops is illegal. France sought to prohibit production of MON 810 within its borders by citing a safeguard clause adopted by the EU in 2004. The clause is designed to allow EU member states to restrict previously approved products in the event that new evidence emerges indicating that the product in question is harmful to either humans or the environment. MON 810 was approved for use by the EU in 1998, and Mengozzi disagreed with applying the clause on the grounds that France imposed its ban without proper European Commission consultation. Though such opinions are not binding, courts typically adopt the stance set forth by advocates general, as the court did here.