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[genet-news] POLICY & REGULATION: EU states told GM crop plans may breach trade rules



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   EU STATES TOLD GM CROP PLANS MAY BREACH TRADE RULES

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Charlie Dunmore

URL:     http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A726C20101108

DATE:    08.11.2010

SUMMARY: "EU legal experts "seriously doubt" that plans to let European Union member states decide for themselves to grow or ban genetically modified crops are in line with global trade rules, officials said on Monday. The European Commission made legal proposals in July to let governments to make their own decisions on the controversial crops, in a bid to break a longstanding EU deadlock on new GM product approvals."

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EU STATES TOLD GM CROP PLANS MAY BREACH TRADE RULES

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU legal experts "seriously doubt" that plans to let European Union member states decide for themselves to grow or ban genetically modified (GM) crops are in line with global trade rules, officials said on Monday.

The European Commission made legal proposals in July to let governments to make their own decisions on the controversial crops, in a bid to break a longstanding EU deadlock on new GM product approvals.

But a new opinion from the EU Council of Ministers' legal service could deal a fatal blow to the plans, after several EU governments already expressed fears that the draft law risks breaching World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

"Everything to do with WTO compatibility in the legal opinion is not positive at all," one EU source told Reuters.

A key concern raised by the legal experts is how governments would justify a cultivation ban after the Commission had ruled out environmental or health grounds for prohibitions.

"Economic arguments cannot be relied upon ... so the obvious remaining candidate would therefore be ethical reasons," the opinion stated, according to an EU official.

But ethical arguments are unlikely to be accepted by the WTO or the European courts as grounds for a ban, as livestock farmers in most EU countries already feed animals with imported GM products, thus undermining the argument, the opinion added.

As a result, national cultivation bans based on ethical criteria risk being either rejected by the European Courts or challenged in the WTO, the experts concluded.

The legal opinion will be presented to EU government experts in Brussels on Thursday, in a meeting that could confirm majority opposition to the plans among the bloc's 27 member states.

France, Italy and Spain have all expressed doubts over the Commission's plans and want decisions on GM cultivation to continue to be taken collectively at EU level.

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Rex Merrifield)



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   LEGAL EXPERTS CHALLENGE PROPOSAL FOR FREE CHOICE ON GMOS

SOURCE:  Europolitics, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Louis Antoine

URL:     http://www.europolitics.info/sectorial-policies/legal-experts-challenge-proposal-for-free-choice-on-gmos-art286472-11.html

DATE:    08.11.2010

SUMMARY: "The EU Council's legal service has issued an overall negative opinion on the European Commission's proposal to let member states decide for themselves whether or not to ban cultivation on their territory of genetically modified organisms authorised at EU level. The experts note that the legal basis for the proposal - Article 114 of TFEU (functioning of the internal market) ? is inappropriate."

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LEGAL EXPERTS CHALLENGE PROPOSAL FOR FREE CHOICE ON GMOS

The EU Council's legal service has issued an overall negative opinion on the European Commission's proposal to let member states decide for themselves whether or not to ban cultivation on their territory of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) authorised at EU level (1).

The experts note that the legal basis for the proposal - Article 114 of TFEU (functioning of the internal market) ? is inappropriate. They also consider that a national measure banning cultivation on the basis of ethical criteria could be set aside by the EU Court of Justice for two reasons: 1. very solid arguments are needed to justify a restriction on a harmonised measure; 2. the ban would have to be coherent. For example, it seems difficult to justify the choice of banning GMOs on the basis of ethical criteria in a country where livestock is given GMO-containing feed.

On the international aspect, the Council's legal service casts serious doubt on the conformity of the Commission's proposal with Article XXa of the GATT ? the only article applicable in this case ? which contains a general exemption clause that may be invoked where necessary "to protect public morality".

The legal opinion was requested by the Council's GMO Working Party, which will hold its next meeting on 11 November. It deals yet another blow to a proposal that has already been criticised severely by the environment and agriculture ministers.

Two GMOs are cultivated at present in certain European countries: maize 810 produced by the US group Monsanto, which is awaiting renewal of its authorisation, and Amflora potato developed by the German group BASF.

(1) Proposal of 13 July, see Europolitics 4019




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