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6-Regulation: EU Court prohibits Upper Austria to ban GE crops



                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Regions not allowed to ban GMOs, court rules
SOURCE: EUObserver, by Mark Beunderman
        http://euobserver.com/9/20018
DATE:   5 Oct 2005

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Regions not allowed to ban GMOs, court rules

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Commission won a legal battle on
GMOs on Wednesday (5 October), as the Austrian region of Upper Austria
was prohibited by the EU Court to ban the growing of genetically modified
crops.

In a draft law in 2003, the Austrian region completely banned the
cultivation of seeds and plants containing genetically modified organisms
(GMOs).

The measure was taken on a precautionary basis, with the argument that
genetically modified crops could potentially damage ecosystems.

The commission, after consulting the European Food Safety Authority
(EFSA), subsequently declared Upper Austria's move illegal under EU
internal market rules - prompting a court action by the Austrians.

A commission spokeswoman told the EUobserver that the commission is
"pleased" with the ruling.

"Internal market rules have been upheld", she said.

"There is no justification for laws in member states completely banning GMOs".

EU policy on GMOs is based on a 2001 EC law which provides for a case-by-
case authorisation regime for the release of GMO products on the bloc's
common market, on the basis of a safety check by both national
authorities and the EFSA.

But once a GMO product is authorised across the EU, member states can
still apply for a national or regional ban of a product on the basis of
new scientific evidence, the EC treaty says.


Biotechnology industry

However, the Court of First Instance - the EU's second highest court -
argued on Wednesday that the general considerations of precaution, as put
forward by the Austrian region, constituted no proper scientific evidence
"by their general nature".

The court stated in its ruling: "When requested at the hearing to comment
on the scale of the problem posed by GMOs in the Land Oberösterreich, the
applicants were not able to state whether the presence of such organisms
had even been recorded".

The commission spokeswoman said the EU has the "safest legislation in the
world", but environmental groups question this.

Friends of the Earth Europe, an environmental NGO, says the EFSA - which
has a key role in authorising GMOs - is biased towards the interests of
the biotechnology industry.

"Since its conception the EFSA has rejected virtually every concern
raised by Member States' about the safety of GM foods and crops", the NGO
stated in a press release after Wednesday's court ruling.

Friends of the Earth Europe highlighted that "Upper Austria is just one
of 164 Regions and 4500 local authorities in the EU to have declared
themselves GMO-free".

But Upper Austria was the first region to actually adopt a general ban of
GMOs - which was prohibited, first by the commission and then by the court.

The self-declared GMO-free regions may in the future still move to ban
individual GMO products, but according to the commission spokeswoman it
is a "likely scenario" that it will then be taken to court by companies.

"This has to be tested in practice", the spokeswoman said.


                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EU Court Rejects Austria Attempt for GMO-Free Zone
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   6 Oct 2005

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EU Court Rejects Austria Attempt for GMO-Free Zone

BRUSSELS - A bid by a region of Austria to ban genetically modified (GMO)
crops and food suffered another blow on Wednesday when a top EU court
rejected an appeal against a 2003 decision that such a ban was illegal.

The Court of First Instance (CFI), the EU's second highest court based in
Luxembourg, rejected the four elements of Austria's appeal and ordered it
to pay costs.

Acting on behalf of Upper Austria, Vienna informed the European
Commission in early 2003 of a draft law to outlaw all GMOs in that region
for three years. It was the first attempt by an EU member state to create
a legally approved GMO-free zone.

But the ban never entered force as it first needed approval from the
Commission which polices the EU's single market.

Then, in September, the Commission ruled that there was no new scientific
evidence to justify such a ban -- meaning it would be illegal for Upper
Austria to impose one by putting its draft law into force. So Vienna then
appealed to the CFI.

"The actions must be dismissed in their entirety," the CFI said in its
ruling, obtained by Reuters.

Austria, whose government is known to be sceptical of GMO technology, has
two months to appeal against the ruling.

Vienna has consistently rejected all new GMO approvals since December
2003 when the EU restarted GMO voting to try and break an unofficial
biotech ban that finally ended in May 2004.


LEGAL GREY AREA

GMO-free zones are a legal grey area in the EU, where more than 70
percent of consumers do not want biotech foods, fearing the damage that
GMO crops may cause to the environment and the potential risks that GMO
foods pose for human health.

Their legal basis is unclear since EU law does allow several GMOs such as
maize, rapeseed and carnation types to be grown anywhere in the bloc.
These were approved before the EU began its five-year moratorium on new
GMOs, lifted in May 2004. Upper Austria has been a test case for GMO-free
zones in the European Union, whose member governments consistently fail
to agree on allowing any new GMO products for import, or growing.

Since the European Commission rejected its request to become GMO-free,
more than a hundred regions in countries from Britain to Italy and Greece
have banded together in a loose-knit network to try and stop biotech
crops being grown in their areas.

But they learnt from the Upper Austria example, using other provisions in
EU laws regulating the environment and single market to make their case
for a GMO-free zone.

"The movement against genetically modified crops will not be stopped by
one legal ruling," said Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the
Earth Europe in a statement on Wednesday.

"Thousands of local governments and regions across Europe are voting to
ban these unwanted and risky crops."


                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  European court overrules ban on GM crops
        Commission urged to review EU law
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe
        http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2005/HH_05_Oct_ECJ.htm
DATE:   5 Oct 2005

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European court overrules ban on GM crops
Commission urged to review EU law

Brussels, October 5 2005 - Friends of the Earth Europe has called for a
new European law that will allow regions to ban genetically modified
crops. The call follows today's ruling by the European Court of Justice
(ECJ) against the region of Upper Austria who had introduced a law
effectively banning the growing of genetically modified crops (GMOs).

The Genetechnology Prohibition law was passed by Upper Austria's
provincial parliament in January 2003. It took a precautionary stance and
argued that as long as the coexistence of genetically modified (GM) and
non GM crops was not solved, the cultivation of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) would be banned for a period of three years. [1]

Nearly three years on, the ruling against Upper Austria comes at a time
when there are still no EU-wide coexistence measures in place to protect
farming and consumers from GMO contamination.

Upper Austria is just one of 164 Regions and 4500 local authorities in
the EU to have declared themselves GMO-free. [2]

The European Commission is opposed to GM-free zones and vetoed the Upper
Austrian law under Treaty article 95(5), the "environmental guarantee"
clause. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published an opinion
that stated that no new evidence for health or environmental risks was
presented by the Region to justify its law. Friends of the Earth Europe
published a damming critique of the EFSA in November 2004, accusing it of
bias and going beyond its remit to benefit the biotechnology industry.
Since its conception the EFSA has rejected virtually every concern raised
by Member States' about the safety of GM foods and crops. [3]

Helen Holder, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said:

"The movement against genetically modified crops will not be stopped by
one legal ruling. Thousands of local governments and regions across
Europe are voting to ban these unwanted and risky crops. It is time that
European law reflected the wishes of the majority and stopped these crops
until their safety can be assured. "


Contacts:

Helen Holder, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO campaign coordinator:
Tel: +32 2 542 01 80, mob +32 474 85 76 38


Notes:

[1] The Upper Austria law is still only a draft due to the Commission's
refusal to accept it. It was notified under document number C(2003 3117)
OJ 2003 L230 p.34

The law was based on a scientific paper written by Werner Mueller of
Global 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria) "GVO freie
Bewirtschaftungsgebiete: Konzeption und Analyse von Szenarien und
Umsetzungsschritten".
http://www.eco-risk.at/de/stage1/download.php?
offname=gvofreieZonen&extension=pdf&id=4

[2] A map of all GMO-free Regions and country/Regional information can be
found at :

http://www.gmofree-europe.org/

[3] "Throwing caution to the wind: a review of the European Food Safety
Authority and its work on genetically modified foods and crops." Friends
of the Earth Europe, November 2004.
http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/publications/EFSAreport.pdf

Friends of the Earth Europe campaigns for sustainable and fair societies
and for the protection of the environment, unites more than 30 national
organisations with thousands of local groups and is part of the world's
largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International.


                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EU Court overturns Austrian law to ban GM
SOURCE: EuropaBio, Belgium
        http://www.europabio.org
DATE:   5 Oct 2005

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EU Court overturns Austrian law to ban GM


UPPER Austria Region has failed to win its case at the EU Court of First
Instance on the region's draft law to ban planting GMOs. The court found
against the Region on all four accounts.

The Court said the Member State had failed to show that the measure was
scientifically justified. The Court said a deviation from EU law was not
warranted in this case, and that the arguments used to invoke the
precautionary principle lacked substance. The actions were dismissed in
their entirety and the costs to be paid by the region

"We are satisfied that EU law, which Member States including Austria only
recently put in place, has been upheld," says Simon Barber, Director of
the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio - the EU Association for
bioindustries. "Today's ruling confirms that Member States may not abuse
safeguard procedures to prohibit the use of safe, licensed GM products in
their territory."


Link to Court Decision
http://curia.eu.int/jurisp/cgi-bin/form.pl?
lang=EN&Submit=Rechercher$docrequire=alldocs&numaff=T-235/
04&datefs=&datefe=&nomusuel=&domaine=&mots=


For more information, contact

Adeline Farrelly
Tel: +32 2 735 0313
Direct: +32 2 739 1174
Mobile: +32 475 93 17 24
Email: a.farrelly@europabio.org

Notes to Editors

Background
On 13 March 2003, the Republic of Austria notified the Commission of the
Oberösterreichisches Gentechnik-Verbotsgesetz 2002, a draft law of the
Land Oberösterreich (Province of Upper Austria) banning genetic
engineering. The measure was intended to prohibit the cultivation of GM
seed and planting material and secure a derogation from EU rules
(Directive 2001/18). The notification relied on a report entitled 'GVO-
freie Bewirtschaftungsgebiete: Konzeption und Analyse von Szenarien und
Umsetzungsschritten' (GMO-free areas of farming: conception and analysis
of scenarios and steps for realisation).

The Commission requested the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to
issue an opinion on the scientific information relied on by the Republic
of Austria. In its opinion of 4 July 2003, EFSA essentially reached the
conclusion that that information did not contain any new scientific
evidence which could justify banning GMOs in the Land Oberösterreich.

About EuropaBio
EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, has 50 direct
members operating worldwide and 25 national biotechnology associations
representing some 1500 small and medium sized enterprises involved in
research and development, testing, manufacturing and distribution of
biotechnology products. http://www.europabio.org




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GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

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