General Court of the European Union rejects lawsuits against approvals of transgenic plants

Testbiotech filed legal cases against EU Commission decisions

18. October 2023

18 October 2023 / The General Court of the European Union today rejected two lawsuits against import approvals awarded to Bayer (T-605/21-8 and T-606/21-8) for genetically engineered plants. Testbiotech filed two legal cases against decisions made by the EU Commission to issue market approvals for genetically engineered soybeans and maize. According to Testbiotech, the risks associated with these transgenic plants have not been assessed as required by law.

The General Court did not endorse this view in its ruling. It concluded that Testbiotech had not succeed in proving legal errors in the decisions made by the EU Commission. According to the Court, the EU institutions have a ‘wide measure of discretion’ when it comes to decision-making on complex issues.

The import of the plants and their use in food and feed was approved by the Commission in January 2021. The plants in question are maize (MON 87427 x MON 87460 x MON 89034 x MIR162 x NK603) and soybeans (MON87751 x MON87701 x MON87708 x MON89788), which were obtained from crossing several genetically engineered plants (also referred to as ‘stacked events’). As a result, the plants are resistant to herbicides, such as glyphosate, and also produce various insecticides.

In its lawsuits, Testbiotech argued, amongst other things, that not all possible interactions between the various traits had been adequately investigated. According to the decision of the Court, this is an unefforceable legal argument, as EU regulations do not explicitly request these investigations. The court did not rule upon the scientific necessity of investigating such interactions.

EU legislation sets high standards to ensure the protection of the environment and consumers. However, relevant details often reveal substantial gaps. A decision about whether to continue with the oppositions will only be made after an in-depth analysis of the written rulings. However, the court ruling already underlines just how important detailed legal requirements are for the future risk assessment of plants obtained from processes of new genetic engineering. This is currently a subject of much debate in Brussels.

Christoph Then,, Tel +49 (0) 0151 54638040

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