Land Oberosterreich v Commission. GM Crops

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) gave its judgement in the case of Land Oberösterreich v Commission (Case T-366/03) on 5 October 2005. The case concerned an application by the Republic of Austria for annulment of Commission Decision 2003/653/EC of 2 September 2003 relating to national provisions on banning the use of genetically modified organisms in the region of Upper Austria.

Austria had notified the Commission back in 2003 of a draft law, prepared for the Province of Upper Austria, banning genetic engineering, which was intended to prohibit the cultivation of seed and planting material composed of or containing GMOs and the breeding and release, for the purposes of hunting and fishing, of transgenic animals. The notification was intended to secure, on the basis of Article 95(5) EC, a derogation from the GMO Deliberate Release Directive (Directive 2001/18/EC). However, following the conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that the information did not contain any new scientific evidence which could justify banning GMOs in the Land Oberösterreich, the Commission adopted its Decision in 2003 (Decision 2003/653/EC), therefore rejecting Austria’s request for derogation.

Austria raised four pleas in law alleging that there had been an infringement of the right to be heard, a breach of the obligation to state reasons, an infringement of Article 95(5) EC and a breach of the precautionary principle. However, the ECJ dismissed all four pleas, therefore ruling against the Austrian ban on genetically modified crops, which failed to prove that Austria had distinctive ecosystems that required risk assessments other than those specified in the Deliberate Release Directive.

The full judgement is available in English at the following link:

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