Feb. 17, 2008
The European Commission has taken court action against Poland following the country's refusal to lift a ban on genetically modified seed. The Commission has referred the case on the Polish law on seed and plant protection, which was adopted on April 27th 2006, to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The law introduces a total ban on trade of GM seed on Polish territory and violates EU rules, the Commission claims.
Use and trade of GM seed is harmonised at EU level, the Commission points out. The ban on GM seed trade in Poland means that it is no longer possible to include varieties of GM seed in the country's National Register of Varieties. Such a move violates the EU GMO registration Directive (2001/18) and the EU Directive on the common catalogue of agricultural varieties (2002/53). The Commission initiated legal action in 2006 by sending Poland a formal notice, followed by a reasoned opinion in 2007, ordering changes to the new law.
However, the Polish authorities responded that they intended to maintain the ban. They believe that the use of GM seed "encroaches on the sphere of public morality" and argue that this justifies a total ban under Article 30 of the EU Treaty on the free movement of goods. The Commission refutes this by pointing out that restrictions based on Article 30 can only be invoked in sectors that are not harmonised at EU level.
The Polish response leaves the Commission with "no alternative" but to refer the matter to the ECJ, the Commission says.
The Commission recently ruled that Poland's proposed rules on GM crop registration, which aim to implement Directive 2001/18, conflict with EU law. Last year, Poland requested a derogation from the EU rules to allow additional restrictions on the cultivation of GM crops. The Commission has rejected the request on the grounds that the Polish authorities have provided no new scientific evidence to justify the proposed measures.