31 March 2000

Greenpeace claims GM ban as victory

GREENPEACE is claiming victory in its battle to keep genetically modified crops off the market in France, following a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice.

The case refers to three Bt maize varieties from Novartis, which were originally licensed by the French government in February 1998, but then suspended in the face of strong anti-GM protests.

This was despite the fact France had originally sponsored the varieties and Brussels had given its consent in 1997.

The European Court was asked to clarify the exact procedures for licensing GMOs, to help determine whether the suspension was justified.

In its ruling it states that marketing authorisation can only be withdrawn if new scientific evidence emerges which shows the product presents an environmental or health risk, or where procedural errors were made during the initial evaluation.

Greenpeace is optimistic it will be able to prove there were procedural errors, (namely, that the precautionary principle was never applied), and expects the French courts to maintain the ban on Novartis maize.

Novartis is not so sure, describing the European Court ruling as "a positive step forward" towards getting its products licensed.

The case now returns to the French high court.

&#8226 No new GMO applications have been processed since the EU imposed a moratorium on approvals in 1998. &#42