EU lawyers say no to Poland's biotech ban

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Commission lawyers have stopped Poland’s move to ban trade and plantings of genetically modified (GMO) seeds, saying it had no scientific justification, the EU’s Official Journal said on Monday.

Polish police surround Greenpeace protestors as they try to block the entrance to the prime minister's office in Warsaw. European Commission lawyers have stopped Poland's move to ban trade and plantings of genetically modified (GMO) seeds, saying it had no scientific justification, the EU's Official Journal said on Monday. REUTERS/Katarina Stoltz

Poland’s plans for what amounted to a national GMO ban, announced last year, quickly drew criticism from experts at the EU executive who routinely scrutinize any such proposals to check that they comply fully with EU law.

Ahead of the announcement by EU lawyers, Polish Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said the new centre-right government was planning to give way and allow GMO seeds by changing a law that was to come into effect in August.

“We are working on a bill which will eliminate the ban on using feed with GMO components in Poland,” Sawicki told Parkiet daily. “We don’t have another option. It is a issue of Polish regulations complying with EU law,” he added.

As tested on several occasions in the past, the Commission takes the view that if a region wants to ban GMO crops or products, such restrictions must be scientifically justified and crop-specific.

It also believes that a proposed ban mustn’t be politically motivated, nor a blanket GMO restriction that might distort the EU’s single trading market.

Poland did not provide new scientific evidence to justify its action, as required under EU law, said the Commission’s notice published in the latest edition of the Official Journal.

There also had to be a problem specific to the member state making the request, it said.

“The Polish notification does not provide any new scientific evidence relating to the protection of the environment or the working environment,” the Journal said.

“The Commission therefore considers that the national provisions notified cannot be approved,” it added.

Earlier this month, France said it would activate a provision in European law to suspend the commercial use of MON 810, an insect-resistant maize developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto. The Commission has yet to react formally.

Reporting by Jeremy Smith in Brussels and Barbara Sladkowska in Warsaw, Editing by Michael Roddy