b'A SAGA HISTORYOF INTERPRETATIONSEU COMMISSION WILL COMPLETE THEIR ONGOING STUDY ON NEW GENOMIC TECHNIQUES BY APRIL 2021. BY EMMANUEL LESPRITA LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE FRENCH INTERPRETATION OF EU DIRECTIVE 2001/18/CEON GMOS In December 2014, nine NGOs challenged the transposition of the EU Directive 2001/18/ECon the deliberate release of GMOs into the environmentby the French government as regards the exemption of varieties obtained from mutagenesis. Focusing on herbicide tolerant varieties in rapeseed and sunflower, and considering those products as hidden GMOs, they claimed no assessment was carried out prior to marketing. Consequently, they asked the Prime Minister to repeal the corresponding part of the French law and to adopt a moratorium on sales and cul-tivation whilst evaluating the risks as legally required by the said Directive. In March 2015, as no answer was given, the same NGOs brought the matter before the French Conseil dEtat, as the highest court of justice which settles disputes between citi-zens and the administration. Citing a serious difficulty in inter-preting European Union law, the Conseil dEtat referred four preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) on 3 October 2016.THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE INTERPRETS EU DIRECTIVE 2001/18/CEIn July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) answered the four preliminary questions raised by the French Conseil dEtat on the GMO directive 2001/18/EC as well as directive 2002/53/CE, on the common catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species. The ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated that all organisms obtained by means of mutagenesis (recent or not) must be considered to be GMOs as defined in article 2(2) ofEmmanuel Lespritthe GMO directive. An exemption applies to organisms obtained by methods of mutagenesis which have conventionally been used in a number of applications and have a long safety record.from this technique are subject to the obligations of the GMO-Consequently, breeding methods developed after the adoptionDirective. Consequently, the Court asked the French govern-of the directive, e.g. targeted mutagenesis, fully fall in its scope. ment to amend the French Environment Code. The government The ECJ also stated that the mutagenesis exemption cannotshould in this context establish by decree, after consulting the be interpreted as preventing Member States from legislating inHigh Council for Biotechnology, a restrictive list of mutagenesis that area. They may subject such organisms to obligations astechniques traditionally used for various applications and for long as such obligations comply with EU law and in particularwhich safety has long been proven. This closed list should be with the rules on the free movement of goods. a list of techniques exempted from the scope of the directive 2001/18/CE.THE FRENCH CONSEIL DETAT INTERPRETS As a consequence, the competent authorities are then THE ECJ RULING required to identify within the Common Catalogue which vari-In its decision of February 2020, considering that no evidence ofeties, in particular among the herbicide tolerant ones, should be long safety records was provided for random in vitro mutagen- withdrawn because of the lack of evaluation they should have esis, the Conseil dEtat confirmed that all plants resultingbeen subject to according to the Environment Code.22IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'