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Case Note

Shackles for Bees? The ECJ's Decision of GMO-Contaminated Honey


Lamping,  Matthias
MPI for Intellectual Property and Competition Law, Max Planck Society;

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Lamping, M. (2012). Shackles for Bees? The ECJ's Decision of GMO-Contaminated Honey. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 3(1), 123-129.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000E-7EF1-4
An old German proverb says: What the farmer doesn't know he doesn't eat. In the case of the Bablok decision delivered by the European Court of Justice on 6 September 2011, it is not the farmers, but the judges who seem to be wary about the unknown. According to their judgement, substances derived from genetically modified plants require market authorisation to be placed on the market as food, even if the substance itself is not fertile anymore. Since the Court takes the view that pollen is an ingredient of honey rather than a natural component, honey contaminated with pollen from genetically modified organisms will fall within the classification of foodstuffs requiring marketing authorisation. So whenever a bee collects pollen from a genetically modified plant, this can make the entire honey harvest unmarketable. Not even the slightest contamination will be tolerated, irrespective of whether it was intentional. Because the prohibition to put unauthorised honey on the market applies abstractly, regardless of whether there is a concrete risk for the health of consumers, the judgement will have considerable impact on the coexistence of conventional, ecological and genetically-modified farming.