European Court Rules to Support Beekeepers Over GM Honey Contamination

This is great news for farmers trying to protect their incomes, livelihoods and health from the massive problem of contamination posed by field GM crops.

Sourced @ Farming Online

“Following a ruling yesterday from the European Courts of Justice, honey made by bees that take pollen from biotech (GM) plants will be outlawed in the EU. The ECJ ruled that any such GM-tainted food “must always be regarded as food produced from a GMO.” Yesterday’s ruling paved the way for farmers with contaminated crops or produce to claim for compensation.

The judgment was reached following the case of a group of German beekeepers, filed by apiarist Karl Heinz Bablok, which was referred to the European Court after he claimed the state of Bavaria had jeopardised his livelihood by planting a test field of GM maize near his hives; the beekeepers had been prevented from selling their honey as it contained GM pollen.

The ruling stated such products would have to be authorised for sale, even if the GM organism (GMO) was unintentionally added, as in the case of the beekeepers, and irrespective of the proportion in the food. Furthermore, once approved, it would also have to be labelled. NGOs and sympathetic MEPs have hailed the decision as marking a return to zero-tolerance policy, which was threatened by February’s acceptance of GMO contaminants in animal feed.

The Advocate-General stated, “Food containing material from a genetically-modified plant, whether that material is included intentionally or not, must always be regarded as food produced from a GMO.” As a result of the ruling, farmers and beekeepers whose businesses are affected now have a clearer legal standing and can press charges against companies or states which threaten them with contamination.

French MEP and activist José Bové welcomed the court’s decision as “proof that co-existence is a fallacy and that GM cultivation does not leave a choice for GM-free products.”

Mute Schimpf, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Europe, said, “This ruling re-writes the rule book and gives legal backing to stronger measures to prevent contamination.” Schimpf went on to criticise the EC’s role in the proceedings, “This is a victory for beekeepers, consumers and for GM-free agriculture in Europe. The European Commission, which gave evidence to the court, has once again shown that it has failed to put consumers and the environment before the interests of the biotech industry.”

An EU spokesperson said the ECJ’s ruling could affect imports of honey from countries where GM crops are widely grown, as under the new laws such products would need prior authorisation, as they now officially contain GM ingredients.

However, others said they hoped this ruling would have positive implications for bees as well as producers. Bees are in need of protection as their numbers are dwindling globally. Some chemicals used in conventional agriculture have been linked to the decline, with death rates up to 80 per cent for some species of bees in areas including Germany. Scientists have warned that their disappearance would be disastrous for plants and trees which rely on the bees for pollination.”

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