The court ruled the plaintiffs - Testbiotech, a not for profit group set up to assess the impact of biotechnology in 2008, along with the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and Sambucus - did not succeed in putting forward plausible arguments to support their case.
“The parties making the request did not succeed in putting forward arguments liable to invalidate the Commission’s finding that: 1) there are no significant differences between the genetically modified soybean and conventional soybean; 2) the potentially toxicological effects of the genetically modified soybean were correctly assessed; and 3) it is unlikely that the newly expressed proteins of the genetically modified soybean are allergenic for infants.”
The Commission gave its permission for the use of soybeans MON87701 x MON89788 in food and feed at the end of June 2012 following a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Six non-governmental groups filed a complaint against this decision.
The Commission rejected the complaint in January 2013, but three of the organizations were allowed to file a legal case at the CJEU under EU regulation 1367/2006.
In September 2013, it was revealed that Monsanto, the UK government, EFSA and the Commission had joined forces to defend the decision in the proceedings.
Commenting on the CJEU ruling, Testbiotech executive director, Christoph Then, said there is “no doubt” there are major gaps in EFSA’s risk assessment. “For example, the interactions between residues from spraying with glyphosate and the insecticides expressed in the plants have not been investigated. Just recently, Testbiotech filed a scientific publication for peer review on the risks associated with these soybeans. We will continue to follow this issue despite the court ruling.”
When asked how Testbiotech would pursue such a route, Then told FeedNavigator today: "We still are discussing [the ruling] with our lawyers. It is a complex decision. It will take us some time to have a full analysis."
Most likely, the NGO will decide on the next course of action in January, he said.
MON87701 x MON89788 are grown predominantly in Brazil and sold under the brand name Intacta. These plants have a unique combination of two genetically engineered traits: They express a so-called insecticidal Bt toxin and are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.
According to the complainants, EFSA failed to carry out the legally required risk assessments for those soybeans.
They questioned EFSA’s conclusion the soybeans can be regarded as being equivalent with soybeans from conventional breeding. The NGOs also claimed EFSA did not consider the synergistic interactions between the residues from spraying with glyphosate and the insecticides, and they alleged the soybeans posed a risk to the immune system.
“A wide range of techniques can be used to process the soybeans in food and feed and these may also influence the content of the Bt toxins in the final product. All in all, there are no sufficiently reliable data on the content of Bt toxins in food and feed, making it impossible to determine the actual risks,” according to the NGOs.