BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Court of Justice's attorney general said on Tuesday France's ban on a genetically modified maize developed by U.S. firm Monsanto was illegal.
The opinion, although not binding, gives a clear indication as to how the court will ultimately rule in the case as it typically follows the views of its attorney general.
France banned GMO maize in February 2008, invoking a so-called safeguard clause because of "serious risks for the environment." Six other countries also have such a ban: Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece.
On Tuesday, the court's attorney general said France "could not suspend the planting of Monsanto's MON810 genetically modified corn ... without having asked prior permission from the European Commission."
Monsanto's modified maize seed (MON 810) has been authorized for sale and cultivation in the EU's 27 member states since 1998.
Its 10-year license is currently being renewed and a decision is expected in 2011. The renewal of the license could end the French ban.
The ECJ's attorney general's conclusions come as the Commission proposed to grant more flexibility to EU countries, which are divided over the use of GMO crops, in implementing EU rules.
The modified maize seed is, alongside the Amflora potato developed by BASF, the only GMO seed approved for farming in the EU. Dozens of GMOs, however, can be imported.
(Reporting by Christopher Le Coq and Julien Toyer)