Friday, February 01, 2008

A marathon trial of strength

Since February 2006 all 16 regions of Poland have declared themselves GMO-free, the GMO-free Europe website proudly declares, telling us that Poland therefore joins Greece and Austria as the third country with a complete "GMO-free" status.

In May 2006, we observed that the Polish government seemed to be headed for a confrontation with the EU on this issue – and so it has come to pass.

The commission has just announced that it has referred the Polish GMO ban to the ECJ, almost exactly two years after the 16 states declared.

Several warning letters to the Polish government have not brought a climb-down. If anything, the government's position has hardened. It has told Brussels that it believes the use of GMOs "encroaches on the sphere of public morality, an encroachment that would justify a total ban on GM seeds." Thus, Brussels is now saying it "has no alternative but to refer Poland to the ECJ."

With Sarkozy also playing games and the commission under pressure from the WTO over member state bans, this is trial of strength between the commission and the member states is turning into a marathon.

With the glacial speed of proceedings in the ECJ, it will be some time yet before the case is heard. If, as is strongly expected, the judgement goes against Poland, then it will be more than interesting to see what happens then. Will Poland huff and puff, and then roll over - as it usually does? We shall see.

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