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France: GMO Prohibition Confirmed

(June 19, 2014) The Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest court for administrative matters, has rejected a request from corn producers to strike down a government regulation prohibiting the sale, use, and growing of a type of genetically modified corn known as MON 810. (Ordonnance du 5 mai 2014, Association générale des producteurs de maïs (AGPM), SARL Le Trouilh et EARL de Candelon [Order of May 5, 2014, General Association of Corn Producers (AGPM), SARL Le Trouilh and EARL de Candelon], Nos. 376808, 377133, CONSEIL D’ETAT, JUGE DES REFERES [INTERIM RELIEF JUDGE] (May 5, 2014).)

An association of corn producers and two individual farmers had petitioned the Conseil d’Etat to invalidate an executive decree forbidding the sale, use, and cultivation of seeds from the MON 810 strand of genetically modified maize. (Arrêté du 14 mars 2014 interdisant la commercialisation, l’utilisation et la culture des variétés de semences de maïs génétiquement modifié (Zea mays L. lignée MON 810) [Executive Order of March 14, 2014, Prohibiting the Sale, Use, and Cultivation of Varieties of Seeds of Genetically Modified Maize (Zea mays L. MON 810 Strand]) (Mar. 14, 2014), JOURNAL OFFICIEL DE LA REPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE [OFFICIAL GAZETTE OF FRANCE] (Mar. 15, 2014), p. 5340.) The petitioners used an emergency procedure called référé, which is comparable to summary judgment in common law jurisdictions, but the Conseil d’Etat judge hearing their case rejected it on the basis that they failed to show that the government order in question presented a sufficiently grave and imminent prejudice, which the référé procedure requires. The judge did not rule on whether there was a “serious doubt” as to the government order’s legality, the other requirement of the référé procedure. (Id.)

The very same day, the French Parliament adopted a law banning the cultivation of genetically modified maize crops in France, thus confirming the March 14 executive order and giving stronger legal force to the prohibition on MON 810. (Le Parlement interdit la culture du maïs transgénique [Parliament Bans the Cultivation of Genetically Modified Maize], LE MONDE (May 5, 2014).) The matter is not entirely settled, however, as a group of senators from the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) opposition party referred the new law to the Conseil constitutionel (Constitutional Council), which will have to determine whether it is constitutional. (Interdiction du maïs OGM: des sénateurs UMP saisissent le Conseil constitutionnel [Ban on GMO Maize: UMP Senators Appeal to Constitutional Council], LE MONDE (May 6, 2014).)