SnowBall archive


GE - GM freeze: The law's on our side.


  A freeze on GM crops could be perfectly lawful, a key legal
  opinion concludes today.  The Government has argued that any
  attempt to put a moratorium on the commercial planting of crops in
  the UK would be contrary to European and world trade law.  In a
  letter to FOE, Agriculture Minister Jeff Rooker has argued that
  "there is no legal power to impose a moratorium on the planting of
  GM crops, and we have therefore had to take a different approach"
  (29th October 1998) .

  But the new opinion, obtained by Friends of the Earth and the
  Royal Society for the Protection of Birds by international
  barrister and academic Phillipe Sands, says  that ?good arguments
  can be made to support the view that a moratorium on the
  commercial growing of GM seeds would not be contrary to EU and WTO

  In support of his argument Mr Sands quotes:
  .    Article 100a(4) of the Treaty of Rome, which allows Member
  states to apply national provisions on environmental grounds, if
  certain conditions are met
  .    The WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement, which allows
  Member states to provisionally adopt trade restrictive measures,
  even if relevant scientific evidence is insufficient for a final

  Commenting, FOE Legal Adviser Peter Roderick said:
  "This opinion shows that the Government can find legal arguments
  for a moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops.  Both
  European and world trade law contains provisions which allow
  national Government to act to protect the environment.  Of course
  we cannot act in an arbitrary way.  But the evidence of
  environmental dangers is already there and the precautionary
  principle must be applied."

  FOE Food Campaigner Pete Riley said:
  "The UK Government's decisions on GM crops are not really driven
  by international law, they are political decisions made for
  domestic reasons.  There is a powerful industry lobby, with
  friends at the highest level of Government.  They are determined
  to get what they want, whatever public opinion may say.
  International law has been used as a fig- leaf to cover that
  simple fact." 

  Note:                  A full copy of Mr Sands' opinion is
  available from Friends of the Earth  

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