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 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) handled national requests across four cases 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 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 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
Pages (from-to)1-42
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Law and the Biosciences
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2021
Externally publishedYes

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