A coalition of environmental groups brought the case against the European Commission in March last year, claiming that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had not carried out all the safety assessments required by law before backing the safety of the company’s genetically modified (GM) Intacta soybeans for use in food and feed. The European Commission then approved the use of the stacked soy variety in the European Union.
The crop expresses an insecticidal protein and is resistant to glyphosate herbicides, sold by Monsanto under its Roundup brand.
In a written parliamentary answer, under-secretary of state, Department of Health, Earl Howe said: “The United Kingdom has a strong interest in the science-based system underpinning genetically modified product applications and so has applied to intervene in this case, which concerns the authorisation of genetically modified food and feed.
“Any intervention will represent the view of the Government as a whole and the only likely external legal costs will be those from instructing counsel and costs of attending any hearing should that prove necessary.”
The environmental groups that filed the case include The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), the Society for Ecological Research, the foundation Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection, the Foundation on Future Farming, the non-profit organisation Sambucus and Testbiotech.
Reasons given to the court for challenging the EFSA decision are: (1) the conclusion that this soybean can be regarded as equivalent with soybeans from conventional breeding, (2) there has been no investigation of combinatorial effects, (3) flawed examination of allergenic risks and (4) there is no obligation for monitoring health effects at the stage of consumption.
A Monsanto spokesperson told FoodNavigator that the company's status in the case was the same as that of the UK government, as both had chosen to intervene separately after the case was filed.
In July, Monsanto said it would withdraw pending applications for the cultivation of four genetically modified crops in the EU, saying they were “going nowhere fast”.
However, the EU still imports millions of tonnes of GM crops for use in animal feed.