Media Release: European Court of Justice does not request a more detailed investigation of risks of genetically engineered soybeans

Decision on a legal challenge of three non-governmental organisations against
approval of a soybeans from Monsanto (Bayer)

[Media Release in German]

12 September 2019 / Today, the European Court of Justice published the decision on a legal
case filed by Testbiotech together with the European Network of Scientists for Social and
Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and the environmental organisation Sambucus (C-
82/17 P). The organisations are concerned about the risks connected with genetically
engineered soybeans produced by Monsanto (Bayer) and sold under the brand name
“Intacta”. According to the decision of the Court, the risks of the genetically engineered
soybeans have been investigated sufficiently before they were allowed for import. The
organisations wanted to enforce higher standards for risk assessment of genetically
engineered plants.

The plants inherit a specific combination of two genetically engineered traits: they express a socalled
insecticidal Bt toxin and are resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides. These soybean plants
are the first with a combination of such traits. The court action against the EU Commission was
started in 2013. In reaction, Monsanto, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK
government were all jointly supporting the EU Commission.
The NGOs are concerned that the health risks from the soybeans were not sufficiently investigated.
It is the combinatorial effects of the residues from spraying the crops with glyphosate and the
insecticidal proteins produced in the plants that are at issue here. In addition, there are indications
that these soybeans pose risks to the immune system. A decisive question dealt with this case was
the burden of proof i.e. who has to show that the genetically engineered plants are safe or unsafe.
“There is no doubt that so far, the EU did not apply the necessary scrutiny to the approval process
of genetically engineered plants. Around 70 approvals for import have been granted by the EU
already, most of these plants are genetically engineered in more than just one characteristic. The
health risks posed by the consumption of food and feed derived from these plants have to be
examined in much more detail. Also specific combinatorial effects of the herbicides and insecticides
as contained in the plants have to be investigated,“ Christoph Then says for Testbiotech.
“We hope the new EU Commission will no longer follow the policy of the previous Commission
but introduce a new policy, giving more weight to the protection of health and the environment
rather than to the interests of industry. The EU also has to ask itself why imports of GE soybeans
are allowed at all, if at the same time it is known and obvious that rainforest destruction and
massive and large scale spraying of glyphosate are going along with these imports,” Angelika
Hilbeck says for ENSSER.
On 29 October, Testbiotech, ENSSER and GeneWatch UK will organise a conference in
Switzerland to present several reports on flaws and deficits of current risk assessment in the EU and
Switzerland of genetically engineered plants. The reports are the result of a research project
conducted over several years (RAGES) which involved around a dozen scientists which are
independent from interest of the development and the application of genetically engineered
organisms. The EU Commission and EFSA are invited to participate at the conference. Testbiotech
expects the outcome will significantly contribute to improvements in the EU approval process.
The EU court cases of Testbiotech are support by several foundations: Altner-Combecher Stiftung,
grassroots foundation, Hatzfeld Stiftung, Software AG Stiftung as well as Zukunftsstiftung
Landwirtschaft. Testbiotech won another court case in March 2018: the General Court of the EU
decided that legal challenges on import authorisations were generally admissible (T-33/16).
Testbiotech plans to file further legal cases against EU approvals of GE organisms by using the
experience from the first cases decided.
Christoph Then, Tel (+) 49 (0) 151 54638040,
Angelika Hilbeck (ENSSER):
Angela von Beesten (Sambucus): Tel (+) 49 (0) 4267 1770,
Further information:
The decision of the EU Court:
Background on the legal case:
Scientific publication on risk assessment of GE soybean Intacta:
Report on soybean cultivation in South America (in German):
The RAGES conference:
The organisations involved: