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EU court blocks GM potato cultivation

By Dave Keating  -  13.12.2013 / 11:53 CET
General Court finds procedural errors in 2010 Commission decision to authorise genetically modified Amflora.

An EU court has annulled a 2010 authorisation of the genetically modified potato Amflora, one of only two GM crops allowed to be cultivated in the EU.

In a ruling issued this morning (13 December), the General Court found that there were procedural errors in the authorisation.

German chemical company BASF applied for the authorisation in 1998. However, the crop is no longer grown in the EU after BASF closed down its European GM production facilities last year, citing lack of political certainty. 

Hungary brought the action for annulment to the court, citing a risk to human and environmental health. The Hungarian case was supported by France, Luxembourg, Austria and Poland.

The court found that the European Commission did not submit drafts of its decision, together with the relevant opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), to the competent committees made up of member state representatives. These committees had no opportunity to comment before the authorisation decision was taken, the court found.

A Commission spokesperson said they are "analysing the ruling and its consequences and will decide on the appropriate follow up."

The only other GM crop approved for cultivation in the EU is the MON 810 maize variety made by Monsanto. Both are grown for industrial purposes rather than food. Amflora was used because of its high starch content to make adhesives or yarn.

Member states are divided on the issue of GM crops, and further authorisations have been blocked with no majority for or against within the Council. In September, the European Court of Justice ruled that there has been an unreasonable delay in the approval of a GM maize variety applied for by DuPont Pioneer. Last month, Tonio Borg, the European commissioner for health, sent the file to member states and said environment ministers meeting today in Brussels should take a decision on the authorisation.

However, the Lithuanian presidency of the Council of Ministers did not put the issue on today's agenda. Council sources say there is no appetite among member states to re-open the GM issue and the same divisions persist. But the Council must take a decision on the DuPont maize variety by 15 February.

Environmental NGOs said the ruling shows the Commission was pushing GM authorisations through without properly consulting public opinion or member states in 2010. “The European Commission has been caught red-handed breaking the law to force the planting of GM crops in Europe,” said Mute Schimpf of campaign group Friends of the Earth Europe. “The Commission must learn from this ruling and stop supporting these unwanted and not needed crops with such enthusiasm.”

© 2014 European Voice. All rights reserved.
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