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Mar 31, 2020

The French highest administrative body, the Council of State (le Conseil d’État), has instructed the French Government to subject plant varieties obtained by mutagenesis to the rules and requirements applicable to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The body also imposes that the plants which have been obtained by mutagenesis are identified within the catalogue of the French Environmental Code in order to guarantee that appropriate risk assessment is conducted for such plant varieties.

The position of the Council of State follows the judicial interpretation that was given by the European Court of Justice ruling (C-528/16 - Confédération paysanne and Others) in July 2018. The European Court established that organisms obtained by means of techniques/methods of mutagenesis constitute genetically modified organisms in the sense of Article 2(2) of Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms. The latter Directive establishes that GMOs require authorization on the basis of extensive risk assessment before they are released on the market or deliberately released in the environment.

The French implementing act however exempted all organisms obtained by mutagenesis from scope of the GMO requirements. The European Court concluded that only organisms obtained by means of techniques/methods of mutagenesis which have conventionally been used in a number of applications and have a long safety record are to be considered excluded from the scope of the given GMO Directive.

The French government is given 9 months to identify the plant varieties that were obtained by mutagenesis and which were included in the national list of agricultural plants without the required risk assessment in order to withdraw them from the list. Furthermore, the Council of State has obliged the French Government to improve the risk assessment of plant varieties resistant to herbicides in line with the recommendation of the national institute for sanitary security of food, environment and work (ANSES).

Conseil d’État (No 388649) Confederation Paysanne et autres (7 February) - link

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