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CONTAMINATION & APPROVAL: Honey containing GM pollen needs approval before sale in the EU



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   HONEY CONTAINING GM NEEDS APPROVAL BEFORE SALE

SOURCE:  European Voice, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Jennifer Rankin

URL:     http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2011/february/honey-containing-gm-needs-approval-before-sale/70185.aspx

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Under EU rules all genetically-modified crops or food made with GM ingredients need to be approved before they can be sold in the EU. Today?s non-binding opinion by Yves Bot, an advocate general at the EU?s Court of Justice, spells out that even ?a minute quantity of pollen? from a GM crop would mean that ?honey must be the subject of an authorisation to be placed on the market?. Advocate generals? opinions are not binding on the court, but they are often followed in judgments."

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HONEY CONTAINING GM NEEDS APPROVAL BEFORE SALE

Avocate general opinion blow for Bavarian beekeeper.

Honey containing even the tiniest traces of genetically-modified material needs to be approved by regulators before it can be sold in the European Union, a judge at Europe?s highest court said today (9 February).

Under EU rules all genetically-modified (GM) crops or food made with GM ingredients need to be approved before they can be sold in the EU.

Today?s non-binding opinion by Yves Bot, an advocate general at the EU?s Court of Justice, spells out that even ?a minute quantity of pollen? from a GM crop would mean that ?honey must be the subject of an authorisation to be placed on the market?.

Advocate generals? opinions are not binding on the court, but they are often followed in judgments.

The legal case arose when an amateur beekeeper in Bavaria took the state to court in Germany, after finding traces of genetically-modified pollen from a nearby maize crop (MON 810) in samples of his honey. The maize, Monsanto?s MON 810, was being grown on nearby land owned by the state for research purposes.

The opinion was published as the EU debates how to reform its GM approval system. In a confidential paper, the European Commission recently proposed that governments could be allowed to ban GM crops to preserve consumer choice to buy non-GM crops. This choice could be compromised by widespread planting of GM crops, as GM seed and pollen could not be contained in fixed zones.

National government officials will discuss this idea tomorrow (11 February) at a meeting in Brussels, along with other reasons they might use to ban GM cultivation. The Commission has also proposed maintaining public order and protecting public morals as reasons for governments to ban cultivation, but governments still have to approve the list.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   HONEY MADE NEAR MONSANTO GM MAIZE MAY FACE EU LIMITS

SOURCE:  Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR:  Stephanie Bodoni

URL:     http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-09/honey-made-close-to-gm-crops-needs-approval-eu-court-aide-says.html

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The unintentional presence in honey ?even of a minute quantity of pollen? from the maize is sufficient reason to restrict its sale, Advocate General Yves Bot of the European Court of Justice said in a non-binding opinion today. ?Food containing material from a genetically modified plant, whether that material is included intentionally or not, must always be regarded as food produced? from modified plants, said Bot. The Luxembourg-based EU tribunal follows such advice most of the time. Rulings normally follow within six months of an opinion."

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HONEY MADE NEAR MONSANTO GM MAIZE MAY FACE EU LIMITS

Beekeepers with hives close to fields of Monsanto Co. genetically modified maize can?t sell their honey in the European Union without regulatory approval, an adviser to the EU?s highest court said.

The unintentional presence in honey ?even of a minute quantity of pollen? from the maize is sufficient reason to restrict its sale, Advocate General Yves Bot of the European Court of Justice said in a non-binding opinion today.

?Food containing material from a genetically modified plant, whether that material is included intentionally or not, must always be regarded as food produced? from modified plants, said Bot. The Luxembourg-based EU tribunal follows such advice most of the time. Rulings normally follow within six months of an opinion.

EU rules require prior authorization before genetically modified goods can be put on the market. The bloc?s 27 nations are split over the safety of food produced from genetically modified crops. This is slowing EU permission to grow them and has prompted complaints by the U.S. and other trade partners.

Beekeepers ?have a real problem,? said Achim Willand, the lawyer for the group of producers that brought the case.

?It?s incomprehensible that the cultivation of such crops on unprotected fields is allowed,? Willand, of German law firm Gassner, Groth, Siederer & Coll, said in telephone interview.

Since the beekeepers aren?t allowed to sell their honey, their only option is to ?seek damages and ask that safeguards are put in place? against the pollen from GM crops, he said.

EU Permission

Monsanto, the world?s largest seed company, received EU permission in 1998 to cultivate its MON 810 maize and the various products derived from the strain such as maize flour, starch and oil. The German State of Bavaria has a number of fields where the crop is grown for research.

Karl Heinz Bablok, one of a group of beekeepers that brought today?s case, detected traces of the crop in his honey and in the pollen he harvested from a field a few hundred meters behind his beehives.

The beekeepers have asked Bavaria to prohibit further planting close to their hives and for measures to prevent bees coming into contact with the crops.

A German court sought the EU tribunal?s guidance on the matter.

The case is C-442/09, Bablok and Others.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   ADVOCATE GENERAL?S OPINION IN CASE C-442/09

SOURCE:  Court of Justice of the European Union, Luxembourg

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1297416341-cp110005en.pdf

DATE:    09.02.2011

SUMMARY: "In Advocate General Bot?s opinion, honey containing pollen from MON 810 maize requires authorisation to be placed on the market as a food produced from a GMO Directive 2001/181 provides that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) may only be deliberately released into the environment or placed on the market if they are covered by an authorisation. Under Regulation No 1829/20032, GMOs for food use or food containing or consisting of GMOs and food produced from or containing ingredients produced from GMOs require authorisation."

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ADVOCATE GENERAL?S OPINION IN CASE C-442/09

Advocate General?s Opinion in Case C-442/09

Karl Heinz Bablok and Others v Freistaat Bayern

In Advocate General Bot?s opinion, honey containing pollen from MON 810 maize requires authorisation to be placed on the market as a food produced from a GMO Directive 2001/181 provides that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) may only be deliberately released into the environment or placed on the market if they are covered by an authorisation.

Under Regulation No 1829/20032, GMOs for food use or food containing or consisting of GMOs and food produced from or containing ingredients produced from GMOs require authorisation.

In 1998, Monsanto obtained authorisation to place genetically modified MON 810 maize on the market. In addition, various food products derived from the MON 810 strain were also authorised, namely maize flour, maize gluten, maize meal, maize starch, maize glucose and maize oil.

MON 810 maize contains a gene of a bacterium which causes the formation of toxins in maize plants, thus destroying the larvae of a butterfly parasite which weakens the plant?s growth.

The Freistaat Bayern (State of Bavaria, Germany) owns various plots of land on which, in recent years, MON 810 maize has been grown for research purposes.

Mr Bablok is an amateur beekeeper who, nearby the plots of land owned by the Freistaat Bayern, produces honey for sale and for his own consumption. Previously, he also produced pollen for sale as a foodstuff, in the form of food supplements.

In 2005, in the maize pollen harvested by Mr Bablok from beehives situated 500 metres from the plots belonging to the Freistaat Bayern, both MON 810 DNA and genetically modified proteins were detected. Moreover, the presence of very small amounts of MON 810 DNA was also detected in certain samples of Mr Bablok?s honey.

Since he considered that the residues of genetically modified maize rendered his apicultural products unfit for marketing or consumption, Mr Bablok started legal proceedings against the State of Bavaria before the German courts. The Bayerischer Verwaltungsgerichtshof (Higher Administrative Court of the Land of Bavaria, Germany) asks the Court of Justice whether the presence of genetically modified maize pollen in those apicultural products constitutes a ?material interference? with them so that their placement on the market should be subject to authorisation.

In his Opinion delivered today, Advocate General Yves Bot recalls, first of all, that GMOs, like any other living organism, are biological entities capable of replication or of transferring genetic material. As regards maize pollen, he states that, as a result of desiccation, it quickly loses its fertility and becomes inanimate material. Although that material may still contain genetic information, the simple presence in it of DNA and the possible incorporation of that DNA by other organisms does not thereby mean that the dead organism is still capable of actively transferring genetic material.

In those circumstances, the Advocate General concludes that pollen from MON 810 maize that is no longer viable and is thus infertile, is not a living organism and, therefore, cannot be regarded as a GMO.

On the other hand, Mr Bot takes the view that both honey in which pollen from MON 810 maize is detected and pollen-based food supplements containing pollen from that same variety of maize are produced from GMOs. He notes in that regard that such pollen is used, as an ingredient, in the manufacture of those apicultural products and that the finished products themselves contain traces of it.

Next, the Advocate General makes clear that food containing material from a genetically modified plant, whether that material is included intentionally or not, must always be regarded as food produced from a GMO. The risk that a genetically modified food can pose to human health is not dependent on whether the incorporation of that material from a genetically modified plant was intentional or unintentional.

Finally the Advocate General concludes that the unintentional presence in honey, even of a minute quantity of pollen from MON 810 maize, means that such honey must be the subject of an authorisation to be placed on the market. In that regard, the fact that the pollen in question comes from a GMO authorised for deliberate release into the environment and the fact that certain other products from that GMO may lawfully be marketed as food are not decisive because the honey containing that pollen is not covered by an authorisation issued under Regulation 1829/2003.

NOTE: The Advocate General?s Opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice. It is the role of the Advocates General to propose to the Court, in complete independence, a legal solution to the cases for which they are responsible. The Judges of the Court are now beginning their deliberations in this case. Judgment will be given at a later date.

NOTE: A reference for a preliminary ruling allows the courts and tribunals of the Member States, in disputes which have been brought before them, to refer questions to the Court of Justice about the interpretation of European Union law or the validity of a European Union act. The Court of Justice does not decide the dispute itself. It is for the national court or tribunal to dispose of the case in accordance with the Court?s decision, which is similarly binding on other national courts or tribunals before which a similar issue is raised.

Unofficial document for media use, not binding on the Court of Justice. The full text of the Opinion is published on the CURIA website on the day of delivery.

1 Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms and repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC (OJ 2001 L 106, p. 1), as amended by Regulation No 1829/2003 and Regulation (EC) No 1830/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2003 (OJ 2003 L 268, p. 24).

2 Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2003 on genetically modified food and feed (OJ 2003 L 268, p. 1).

www.curia.europa.eu