European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi on Tuesday issued an opinion [text, in French] declaring that a French ban on cultivating genetically modified (GM) crops is illegal. In 2008, France sought to prohibit production within its borders of MON 810, a GM strain of maize developed by US-based Monsanto [corporate website], by citing a safeguard clause adopted by the EU in 2004. The clause is designed to allow EU member states to restrict previously approved products in the event that new evidence emerges indicating that the product in question is harmful to either humans or the environment. MON 810 was approved for use by the EU in 1998, and Mengozzi disagrees with applying the clause on the grounds that France imposed its ban without proper European Commission [official website] consultation. Though such opinions are not binding, courts typically adopt the stance set forth by advocates general.
Courts and legislatures around the world have struggled with the increasingly prevalent issue of GM crops. A US judge in December ordered the destruction of a crop [JURIST report] of Monsanto-produced GM sugar beets because of the potentially harmful effect the plants may have on surrounding flora, marking the first time such an order was issued in the US. A week earlier, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] upheld restrictions on GM crops [JURIST report], including "buffer zones" between GM and conventional crops, after finding that the legislature had acted in the public interest when passing them. The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in June in Monsanto Company v. Geerston Seed Farms [Cornell LII backgrounder] that a trial court abused its discretion when it issued a nationwide injunction against a GM alfalfa seed, finding that the order did not satisfy the standard four-factor test to determine the availability of injunctive relief.