Neue Zurcher Zeitung
October 6, 2005


By Simon Thonen in Brussels

A proposed moratorium on genetically modified organisms, similar to
the current Swiss initiative, has been rejected by the European Court
of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ rejected on Wednesday an application from the Austrian
province of Upper Austria for a moratorium.

The Austrian province was hoping to achieve exactly the same goals as
the Swiss campaign. They wanted a ban on the cultivation of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture for several

Supporters want to protect conventional and biological farmers from
potential contamination by genetically modified crops in neighbouring

The Austrians argued that coexistence between genetically modified and
natural agriculture is not possible.

The ECJ however said the province had not provided sufficient evidence
that it had an "unusual or unique ecosystem". The Austrians had needed
to prove this in order to receive an exemption from strict European
Union (EU) regulations.

In principle it is permitted to cultivate genetically modified crops,
which have been approved by Brussels, anywhere in the EU.

"The judgment is a very strong signal to EU members that an EU-wide
cultivation ban conflicts with Single European Market rules,"
explained the spokeswoman for Stavros Dimas, the EU Environment

Mixed reactions

The verdict is a defeat for some 160 regions in Europe that have
declared themselves GM-free zones up to now. But they are not ready to
throw in the towel.

"The movement against genetically modified seeds will not be stopped
by one ruling," the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth
said in Brussels.

In Austria, other provinces have already introduced strict
precautionary regulations that make genetic farming almost impossible
in practice.

However, the EU ruling pleased opponents of the GM-free initiative in
Switzerland. A referendum on the issue will take place in Switzerland
at the end of November.

Johannes Randegger, a parliamentarian from the centre-right Radical
Party, said the EU had already scientifically proved that the
coexistence of genetically modified and conventional farming is
possible. "This ruling shows that moratoriums are superfluous," he

Maya Graf from the Green Party naturally saw it differently. "The
European public is mostly against gene technology in food," she said.
"They are denying us the possibility to decide on this question

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