The Precautionary Principle and Genetically Modified Organisms: a bone of contention between European institutions and member states

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Abstract

This manuscript examines how the Precautionary Principle, as an internationally recognised concept enshrined in a range of legal instruments, has been applied to provide a mechanism for protection of the environment and health in response to the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Europe. It discusses how the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) substantively handled national requests across four seminal cases between 2003 and 2017 in which Member States had failed in their attempt to trigger the Precautionary Principle in order to uphold a ban or suspension of the cultivation or sale of products derived from GMOs in their territory. The analysis of these judgements suggests that the Court has applied a narrow interpretation to the scientific evidence emerging from risk assessments, and has thereby limited the potential for precautionary measures by Member States to be upheld by the Court. This outcome reflects a ‘weak’ application of the Precautionary Principle by the Court in contrast with the ‘moderate’ formulation and ‘strong’ interpretation of the principle offered by the European legal and policy framework. Moreover, the analysis highlights that the CJEU’s rulings are not keeping pace with the development of the European normative framework which considers the Precautionary Principle as a key tenet and, through the 2015 Directive, enables Member States to ban GMO cultivation without referring to scientific evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberlsab012
Pages (from-to)1-42
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Law and the Biosciences
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • genetically modified organisms in Europe
  • the precautionary principle
  • European case-law on genetically modified organisms

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