Can an Italian farmer grow genetically modified maize despite the Italian State prohibiting this?
Reverse engineering the legal issues from the questions published on the Curia website and from the information in various Italian newspapers, it seems that in 2014 Farmer Fidenato decided to plant genetically modified maize (MON 810). This displeased the local authorities not least because Italy has banned the growing of genetically modified organisms. The Italian authorities therefore ordered the farmer to destroy his crop and they took him to court, which then left him with a criminal penalty. Farmer Fidenato is challenging his conviction and the legality of the Italian measures.
According to the Curia website, the Tribunale di Pordenone has asked:
1. When requested to do so by a Member State, is the Commission required, for the purposes of Article 54(1) of Regulation No 178/2002, […] to adopt emergency measures even if the Commission does not consider there to be a serious and evident risk to human and animal health or to the environment?
2. If the Commission has notified the Member State that the conditions for the adoption of emergency measures do not exist, may the Member State take measures pursuant to Article 53 of Regulation No 178/2002?
3. May the Member State, on the basis of the precautionary principle, adopt emergency measures pursuant to Article 34 of Regulation No 1829/2003 […] even where the conditions of serious and evident risk are not present, and may it maintain such measures in force when the Commission, after examining the opinion of EFSA, notifies it that the conditions necessary for the adoption of emergency measures are not met?
There is a further ‘Fidenato’ reference docketed as C-111/16, this time from the Tribunale di Udine.
Elsewhere in Italy, farmers are objecting to orders to destroy their plants which potentially harbour a disease that is new to the EU; see further, Case C-78/16, Pesce – against an overly fastidious state combating xylella fastidiosa. There has already been an oral hearing of Pesce before the First Chamber.
Update – 11 December 2016
The precautionary principle in the context of genetically modified seeds is also at stake in a new preliminary reference from France; see further, Case C-528/16, Confédération paysanne – against new herbicide-resistant plants.
Update – 8 January 2017
The Third Chamber will hear this dispute on 9 February 2017.
Update – 12 February 2017
There is another ‘precautionary principle’ reference, this time from the German courts; see further, Case C-683/16, Deutscher Naturschutzring – stop German fishing boats scraping the bottom.
Update – 26 February 2017
The Opinion of Advocate General Bobek is due on 30 March 2017.