GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: European Court of Justice judgement on GMO pollen in honey



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   JUDGMENT IN CASE C-442/09 KARL HEINZ BABLOK AND OTHERS V FREISTAAT BAYERN

SOURCE:  Court of Justice of the European Union, Luxembourg

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1315379710-cp110079en.pdf

DATE:    06.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Honey and food supplements containing pollen derived from a GMO are foodstuffs produced from GMOs which cannot be marketed without prior authorisation. Pollen is itself no longer a GMO when it has lost its ability to reproduce and is totally incapable of transferring genetic material."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


JUDGMENT IN CASE C-442/09 KARL HEINZ BABLOK AND OTHERS V FREISTAAT BAYERN

Honey and food supplements containing pollen derived from a GMO are foodstuffs produced from GMOs which cannot be marketed without prior authorisation

That pollen is itself no longer a GMO when it has lost its ability to reproduce and is totally incapable of transferring genetic material

The directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)(1) provides that such organisms may be released deliberately into the environment or placed on the market only when prior authorisation has been given.

Moreover, the regulation on genetically modified food(2) provides that GMOs for food use, foodstuffs containing or consisting of GMOs, or foodstuffs produced from ingredients produced using or containing GMOs must be authorised before being placed on the market.

In 1998 Monsanto obtained marketing for the genetically modified MON 810 maize. This contains the gene of a bacterium producing toxins which destroy the larvae of a parasitic butterfly, infestation with which constitutes a danger for the development of the maize plant.

A dispute has arisen between Mr Bablok, an amateur beekeeper, and Freistaat Bayern (State of Bavaria, Germany), which owns a number of plots of land on which MON 810 maize has been cultivated for research purposes in recent years. In the vicinity of those plots of land, Mr Bablok produces honey both for sale and for his own personal consumption. Up to 2005, he also produced pollen for sale as a foodstuff in the form of a food supplement. In 2005, MON 810 maize DNA and genetically modified proteins were detected in the maize pollen harvested by Mr Bablok in beehives situated 500 metres from the plots of land belonging to Freistaat Bayern. Very small amounts of MON 810 maize DNA were also detected in a number of samples of Mr Bablok's honey.

As he took the view that the presence of residues of genetically modified maize made his products unsuitable for marketing and for consumption, Mr Bablok brought legal proceedings against Freistaat Bayern before the German courts, in which four other amateur beekeepers joined.

The Bayerischer Verwaltungsgerichtshof (Bavarian Higher Administrative Court, Germany) observed that, once the disputed pollen is incorporated into the honey or pollen-based food supplements, it loses its capability to fertilise. That court seeks clarification as to the consequences of that loss. It has asked the Court of Justice, primarily, whether the mere presence, in the apicultural products in question, of genetically modified maize pollen which has lost its ability to reproduce has the consequence that those products may not be placed on the market without authorisation.

In its judgment delivered today, the Court observes, first, that the pollen in question may be classified as a GMO only if it is an 'organism' within the meaning of the directive and the regulation, that is to say, if it is a 'biological entity capable' either of 'replication' or of 'transferring genetic material'. It holds in that regard that, since it is common ground that the pollen in question has lost all specific and individual ability to reproduce, it is for the referring court to determine whether that pollen is otherwise capable of 'transferring genetic material', taking due account of the scientific data available and considering all forms of scientifically-established transfer of genetic material.

The Court concludes that a substance such as pollen derived from a variety of genetically modified maize, which has lost its ability to reproduce and is totally incapable of transferring the genetic material which it contains, no longer comes within the scope of that concept.

The Court goes on to hold that, nevertheless, products such as honey and food supplements containing such pollen constitute foodstuffs which contain ingredients produced from GMOs within the meaning of the regulation. In that regard, it finds that the pollen in issue is 'produced from GMOs' and that it constitutes an 'ingredient' of the honey and pollen-based food supplements. As regards the honey, the Court observes that pollen is not a foreign substance or an impurity, but rather a normal component of honey, with the result that it must indeed be classified as an 'ingredient'. The pollen in question consequently comes within the scope of the regulation and must be subject to the authorisation scheme provided for thereunder before being placed on the market.

The Court observes that that authorisation scheme for foodstuffs containing ingredients produced from GMOs applies irrespective of whether the pollen is introduced intentionally or adventitiously into the honey.

Lastly, the Court holds that the authorisation obligation exists irrespective of the proportion of genetically modified material contained in the product in question.

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 judgment 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 by 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).



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   GIANT IN GENETIC ENGINEERING STUNG BY BEES

SOURCE:  Mellifera e. V. & Gaßner, Groth, Siederer & Coll., Dr. Achim Willand, Dr. Georg Buchholz, Germany

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1315379395-genetic engineering stung by bees.pdf

DATE:    06.09.2011

SUMMARY: "With its decision dating from September 6, 2011, the European Court of Justice clearly ruled in favour of European consumers as well as that of beekeepers. If their honey contains pollen from genetically modified crops, beekeepers are forced to destroy it. So far, they haven?t had any chance to be protected from genetic engineering in the vicinity of their beehives nor to get a compensation for their economic loss. Now it?s like David beating Goliath. Moreover, the judgment could cause many import honeys and other food to disappear from the shelves in European supermarkets."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


GIANT IN GENETIC ENGINEERING STUNG BY BEES

European Court of Justice with groundbreaking decision in the interest of European consumers

Honey must be protected against pollution with pollen from genetically modified organisms

Food is considered genetically modified food in the sense of European genetic engineering law even if it contains only tiny traces of genetically modified organisms and must therefore not be marketed without a special safety control and approval. With its decision dating from September 6, 2011, the European Court of Justice clearly ruled in favour of European consumers as well as that of beekeepers. If their honey contains pollen from genetically modified (GM) crops, beekeepers are forced to destroy it. So far, they haven?t had any chance to be protected from genetic engineering in the vicinity of their beehives nor to get a compensation for their economic loss. Now it?s like David beating Goliath. Moreover, the judgment could cause many import honeys and other food to disappear from the shelves in European supermarkets.

Prior to the current decision was a legal battle going on for years. The lawsuit was initiated by the German Alliance for the Protection of Bees Against Genetic Engineering in Agriculture. The decision does not only concern honey, but comestibles in general throughout the European Union. According to the European Court of Justice, the strict standards now required are necessary to protect people?s health from the so far unknown risks of genetic engineering. People in Germany as well as in Europe take a clear position against genetic engineering, too: In a recent survey made by the German Bundesamt für Naturschutz (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation), 87 per cent of all Germans clearly voted against genetic engineering in agriculture. They would even like its being completely prohibited.

Honey has long and rightfully been considered a very healthy and natural product. However, it has been endangered ever since the first fields with genetically modified crops like corn or rapeseed were allowed for test purposes. Bees don?t make any difference between blooms from natural and from genetically modified crops when they collect their pollen and nectar. As a result, beekeeper Karl Heinz Bablok from the south German town of Augsburg took all of his honey to the local waste combustor in the autumn of 2009 ? all because the Free State of Bavaria had planted a field with the Monsanto corn MON 810 close to his beehives. Monsanto is one of the biggest enterprises in genetic engineering. MON 810 contains an insecticide that caused a quarrel on its environmental impact between the German Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture and Monsanto enterprise. If beekeeper Bablok had sold or even given away his honey for free, this would have been an offence ag
 ainst the law. Several German courts clearly saw the problem, but still would not grant him protection against contamination with genetically modified organisms. Thanks to the financial and organisational support from the German Alliance for the Protection of Bees against Genetic Engineering in Agriculture, he now succeeded at the European Court of Justice ? a success that should be very much welcome to all consumers in Europe.

The Alliance was initiated by Thomas Radetzki, manager of Mellifera e. V., an ecologically orientated beekeepers? association located in Rosenfeld in southern Germany. Apart from Mellifera, members of the Alliance are the German Association of Professional Beekeepers (Deutscher Berufs- und Erwerbsimkerbund), the German Beekeepers? Association (Deutscher Imkerbund), Demeter, Bioland, the Association for Producers of Ecological Food (Assoziation ökologischer Lebensmittelhersteller) and the Association of Ecological Food Industry (Bund Ökologischer Lebensmittelwirtschaft). Radetzki?s satisfied comment on the court?s decision: ?The small bee showed that it has a sting it can use ? even against a giant in genetic engineering. Consumers have every reason to share our happiness about this groundbreaking decision! Now it is up to the Federal Government to act instead of blaming the European commission for the poor consumer protection. Chancellor Mrs. Merkel and Minister Mrs. Aigner n
 ow have to make sure that the regulation on the production of genetically modified crops dating from 2008 will get an effective addition concerning beekeepers? protection. Moreover, trade must take conspicuous honey from the shelves, and the Federal States must see to an effective food control.?

Currently German law prohibits marketing MON 810 Bt maize. At the same time, Monsanto wants to obtain its readmission in Germany. Luckily, the man in the street can very well fight for his interests by cooperating with others ? just like bees in their hives do.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE: HONEY CONTAINING POLLEN FROM GENETICALLY MODIFIED MAIZE MON 810 MUST NOT BE MARKETED ? ?ZERO TOLERANCE? FOR GENETICALLY MODIFIED MATERIAL WITHOUT APPROVAL

SOURCE:  Rechtsanwälte Dr. Achim Willand, Dr. Georg Buchholz & Mellifera e.V., Germany

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1315378942-Lawyers' Statement doc-001.pdf

DATE:    06.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Honey containing pollen from genetically modified maize MON 810 needs an approval before being marketed because it is ?genetically modified food? in the sense of European genetic engineering law. [...] The decision is important not only for beekeeping, but in general for the production of food and feeding stuff as well as for trade. German beekepers went to German courts to demand protection against the unwitting input of pollen from GM modified maize MON 810 of the Monsanto company."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE: HONEY CONTAINING POLLEN FROM GENETICALLY MODIFIED MAIZE MON 810 MUST NOT BE MARKETED ? ?ZERO TOLERANCE? FOR GENETICALLY MODIFIED MATERIAL WITHOUT APPROVAL

European Court of Justice: Honey containing pollen from genetically modified maize MON 810 must not be marketed ? ?zero tolerance? for genetically modified material without approval

Today, the European Court of Justice issued a groundbreaking judgment (legal case C-442-09).

Honey containing pollen from genetically modified maize MON 810 needs an approval before being marketed because it is ?genetically modified food? in the sense of European genetic engineering law. With its decision, the highest European Court made clear that even tiniest traces of genetically modified (GM) material in food or feeding stuff demand a safety control and a special approval following genetical engineering law. Without an approval, it is illegal to market such food. According to the European Court of Justice, the strict standards now required are necessary to protect people?s health from the so far unknown risks of genetic engineering. The decision is important not only for beekeeping, but in general for the production of food and feeding stuff as well as for trade.

Information on the lawsuit: German beekepers went to German courts to demand protection against the unwitting input of pollen from GM modified maize MON 810 of the Monsanto company.

A laboratory found pollen from this maize in Karl Heinz Bablok?s honey. Bablok, who lives close to the south German town of Augsburg, is one of the litigating beekeepers. MON 810 is approved for its use in feeding stuff as well as in some processed food made from maize kernel (e.

g. polenta). However, there is no approval for other food containing pollen of the crop.

The Bavarian Higher Administrative Court presented the case to the European Court of Justice.

The latter now largely confirmed the beekeepers? legal opinion. Each food containing material from genetically modified plants is subject to European genetic engineering law. It is then food ?made from genetically modified organisms?. This means that there must be a safety control and that an approval according to the European regulation on genetically modified food and feeding stuff (VO 1829/2003) is required. According to German law, an infringement of this can be chargeable. This is not only valid for honey and other food produced within the boundaries of the European union, but also for imports containing traces of material from genetically modified crops that don?t have sufficient approval within the EU.

The European Court of Justice contradicts the opinion of the European Commission, which claims that honey doesn?t need a control nor an approval because the pollen came into the honey unwittingly and without human assistance. According to the European Court of Justice, even smallest amounts of MON 810 pollen getting into the honey unwittingly make it a produce that must no longer be marketed. Nor was it sufficient that the Monsanto maize has an approval for being cultivated. In the court?s opinion, a comprehensive approval is necessary also for food with an input of this pollen.

Thus, the Court confirms the policy of ?zero tolerance? for traces of genetically modified material which does not have the approval necessary according to European law.

Following the judgment by the European Court of Justice, beekeepers now ? depending on the individual case - may have a claim for damages against a farmer if MON 810 pollen from his cultivation gets into their honey. If the beekeeper can no longer sell his honey, this is considered a ?major impairment? causing a claim for damage. If the beekeeper moves his bees in order to prevent this impairment, it is also possible that the cultivator is liable for the additional work and expense of the beekeeper.

Whether the beekeepers also have a claim for protection (e. g. cutting off the panicles) depends on German genetic engineering law. In the case of beekeeper Bablok, the Augsburg administrative court, balancing the interests of both parties, ruled that there should be no such claims for protection. The Bavarian Higher Administrative Court as the second level of jurisdiction indicated that it might share this view.

According to their lawyers, GGSC from Berlin, the beekeepers do not have to tolerate the impairment.

They have a claim to be protected from GMO cultivation. This is true especially for crops with pollen that can spread into a huge area without any means of control if cultivated in the open air. Thus, the pollen can get into food, and the risks going along with this have neither been thoroughly studied nor are they covered by an official approval. Crops like MON 810, which have such a gap of approval, are hardly ?capable of co-existence? and unbearable for traditional agriculture. Chances are that it is necessary to appeal to the Federal Administrative Court in order to prosecute the beekeepers? claim for protection.

Currently, it is prohibited in Germany to market MON 810; however, Monsanto have taken action for its renewed approval.

The beekeepers? case is pleaded for by Berlin lawyers GCC in the European High Court as well as in the Bavarian Higher Administrative Court. The German beekeepers? association Mellifera e. V. initiated the German ?Alliance for the Protection of Bees against Genetic Engineering in Agriculture?, which supports the litigating beekeepers. Members of the Alliance are the umbrella organisations of German beekeepers as well as several associations of the German food economy.



                                  PART 4

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   EUROPEAN COURT PROTECTS HONEY FROM GM CONTAMINATION

SOURCE:  Friends of the Earth Europe, Belgium (FoEE)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2011/Sep6_European_court_protects_honey_from_GM_contamination.html

DATE:    06.09.2011

SUMMARY: "The European Court of Justice today upheld the rights of beekeepers and consumers to keep honey free from GM contamination. Europe?s highest court ruled that honey contaminated with genetically modified crops would need full safety approval and would have to be labelled as GM. The ruling opens the way for Europe?s laws on GM crops to be strengthened. Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: ?This is a victory for beekeepers, consumers and the movement for GM-free agriculture in Europe. "

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


EUROPEAN COURT PROTECTS HONEY FROM GM CONTAMINATION

Victory for beekeepers and consumers, says Friends of the Earth Europe

Brussels/Luxembourg, September 6, 2011 ? The European Court of Justice today upheld the rights of beekeepers and consumers to keep honey free from GM contamination. Europe?s highest court ruled that honey contaminated with genetically modified (GM) crops would need full safety approval and would have to be labelled as GM. The ruling opens the way for Europe?s laws on GM crops to be strengthened [1]. Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: ?This is a victory for beekeepers, consumers and the movement for GM-free agriculture in Europe. Honey should remain free of contamination from the biotech industry. This ruling re-writes the rule book and gives legal backing to stronger measures to prevent contamination from the likes of Monsanto. ?The European Court ruling confirms that existing laws that allow traces of unauthorised GM contamination are insufficient and need revising. The European Commission has once again shown that it has failed to put consum
 ers and the environment before the interests of the biotech industry.?

NOTES:

[1] The ECJ ruling was the result of a legal challenge from a German association of beekeepers who took the Bavarian government to court following the contamination of honey from a governmental field trial of Monsanto?s maize MON 810 (www.bienen-gentechnik.de). The case was forwarded to the European Court of Justice (C-442/09). The European Court of Justice was asked to rule whether honey containing GM-pollen is defined as a GM product and if any trace of a GMO in honey needs an authorisation as a GMO.



                                  PART 5

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   EU COURT BANS HONEY CONTAMINATED BY GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROP

SOURCE:  Greenpeace EU Unit, Belgium

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/en/News/2011/EU-court-bans-honey-contaminated-by-genetically-modified-crop/

DATE:    06.09.2011

SUMMARY: "The Court of Justice of the European Union today banned beekeepers from selling honey contaminated by a genetically modified crop. [...] Greenpeace EU agriculture policy adviser Stefanie Hundsdorfer said: ?The ECJ ruling highlights how conventional and genetically modified agriculture cannot co-exist."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


EU COURT BANS HONEY CONTAMINATED BY GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROP

Luxembourg, 6 September 2011 - The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) today banned beekeepers from selling honey contaminated by a genetically modified (GM) crop.

The court ruled that honey from a German beekeeper could not be sold after being contaminated by pollen from Monsanto?s MON810 maize, one of only two GM crops cultivated for commercial purposes in Europe.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy adviser Stefanie Hundsdorfer said: ?The ECJ ruling highlights how conventional and genetically modified agriculture cannot co-exist. When a GM crop is grown in open fields, contamination is impossible to stop. It?s a scandal there?s no Europe-wide liability regime to protect beekeepers or farmers affected by GM crops. Monsanto and the Bavarian state that grew the crop should be held fully liable for this genetic pollution and compensate any beekeeper affected.?

The German beekeeper?s hives were 500 metres from a test field of MON810 on Bavarian government land. MON810 is currently authorised for a limited number of food uses, excluding GM pollen in honey, and the court?s ruling upholds the EU?s zero tolerance rules for unauthorised GM contamination. The ruling could make it easier for German beekeepers to claim compensation, something still to be decided by a German court.

In Europe, MON810 is grown mainly in Spain, and to a much lesser extent in Portugal, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Romania.