EU Study on liability in case of damage due to the admixture of GMOs in non-GM crops

Sponsor of the study
Objective of the study
Background of the study
Publication of the study

Sponsor of the study

The Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission commissioned the (then) Research Unit for European Tort Law with this study, which is used by the DG Agriculture and Rural Development itself and by other Commission departments with an interest in these measures. The study supports the Commission in implementing its coordination role concerning co-existence.

ETL has completed this study jointly with the European Centre of Tort and Insurance Law (ECTIL).

Objective of the study

The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in EU agriculture may have economic implications that result from incomplete segregation of GM and traditional crop production. In particular, the presence of GMOs could not be ruled out in non-GM agricultural products. Due to requirements for labelling of GMOs and other purity criteria of non-GM products as well as market demand for non-GMO products, such presence may have negative economic implications for the operators concerned. The study therefore analyses aspects concerning the liability of GMO presence in traditional agricultural products.

Background

The cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in the EU may lead to cases in which traditional agricultural products contain detectable traces of GMOs. On the one hand, such admixture may result from inadequate application of segregation measures by farmers. On the other hand, as agriculture is an open process that does not allow the complete isolation of individual fields, a certain degree of admixture between neighbouring crops is unavoidable in practice.

The presence of GMOs in traditional products may lead to their devaluation, which would entail an economic damage to the producer of the traditional products. For instance, due to the presence of the GMO the traditional product may require to be labelled as GM.

In addition to the economic implications resulting from the actual presence of a GMO in a traditional product, costs may also occur due to sampling and testing of products, either on a basis of routine controls or in cases, where relevant GMO admixture may be suspected. In many cases, the presence of GMOs and their quantity could not be assessed without the use of laboratory analyses, which may cause significant costs.

If the cultivation of GM crops will become more widespread, the issue of liability in relation to GMO admixture could gain further importance in the EU. Compared to other cases of economic damage resulting from neighbouring activity, GMO admixture may pose specific difficulties because the admixture may initially remain undetected and become known at later stages of the food or feed production chain. Furthermore, the causal link between the damage and the operator responsible for it may not always be apparent as there may be different sources of admixture (e.g., seed impurities, outcrossing with neighbouring crops, volunteers from previous GM crop cultivation).

Publication of the study

The Institute in collaboration with the ECTIL have now published the results of the study. The book, Economic Loss Caused by Genetically Modified Organisms: Liability and Redress for the Adventitious Presence of GMOs in Non-GM Crops is available online.