EU rules Italian ban on GMO crop unlawful

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe’s top court ruled on Wednesday that Italy had been wrong to ban cultivation of an EU-approved genetically modified (GMO) maize as it had failed to show there was a serious risk to public health or the environment.

The European Union approved use of the GMO maize, Monsanto’s MON 810 in 1998, but the Italian government asked the European Commission in 2013 to ban it after two Italian scientific studies questioned its safety.

The Commission concluded there was no reason to do so since the European Safety Authority had concluded it was safe.

Italy nevertheless decided to ban cultivation of MON 810 and in 2014 prosecuted a number of farmers who continued to grow it.

The European Court of Justice ruled that unless there is significant evidence that GMOs are a serious risk to human or animal health or the environment, then member states cannot adopt emergency measures to prohibit their use.

The EU revised rules governing GMO approvals in 2015. Under the new rules, member states can opt out of allowing cultivation during the authorization process. They can also seek an opt-out at a later stage, but only if they invoke compelling grounds.

Reporting by Lily Cusack; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Susan Fenton