General Court issues a key judgment on the reach of the Aarhus Regulation

14 Mar 2018

The General Court has annulled the Commission’s decision that it did not need to comply with a request for review made under the Aarhus Regulation insofar as the decision in question related to the safety risks, as opposed to ‘environmental risks’ posed by a genetically modified organisms (“GMO”).

Pursuant to the Aarhus Regulation, Testbiotech submitted a request for review to the Commission of the legality of a market authorisation for a genetically modified soybean. The Commission rejected the greater part of the review on the basis that it was out with the scope of the Aarhus Regulation because it examined the health threats posed by the GMO, and not the threat it posed to the environment. The General Court found that as GMOs are cultivated in the environment they are, therefore, part of the general environment (whether they are cultivated in the EU or not). The Court found, therefore, that the Aarhus Regulation applies to any provision of EU legislation concerning the regulation of GMOs that has the objective of dealing with a risk to human or animal health, that originates in those GMOs or in environmental factors that may have effects on GMOs when they are cultivated or bred in the natural environment.

This judgment has broader significance for the exercise of environmental law rights by NGOs. It demonstrates that the General Court will adopt a broad and purposive approach to the scope of the Aarhus Regulation, enabling NGOs to challenge inappropriate market authorisations or other environmental decisions.

Kassie Smith QC and Julianne Kerr Morrison, instructed by Leigh Day, acted for Testbiotech.

For further detail see the General Court’s Press Release.

The judgement may be found here.