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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

Case 4 - Genetically modified organisms

from Part A - Scope of liable persons


A is a producer of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As a result of an intentional and legal or an unintentional release of these organisms, B suffers damage.

  1. Is A liable to B? Would it be of importance that B is a neighbour to A's site where the release took place?

  2. Who would be liable if the release was carried out by the farmer C who had bought a genetically modified organism from A?

  3. What kind of damage may B claim?

  4. What is the extent of liability if several persons living in the community where the release took place develop minor health damage (e.g. a harmless, but very tiresome allergy) and/or property damage?

Comparative remarks


Liability for the risks imposed by genetically modified organisms must cover the scientific development and production of genetically modified organisms, their distribution on the market, and use by farmers and consumers. The distribution of genetically modified organisms on the market is covered under product liability law, which is, due to the harmonising effects of the EC Products Liability Directive, quite similar in all European countries. It provides no-fault liability on the producer for the use and consumption of products placed on the market. Thus, when a consumer is injured by the consumption of a foodstuff or a drug produced by methods of genetic engineering, he or she will be entitled to claim property or personal injury damage from the producer. Damage to the environment, however, is only covered if it constitutes property damage.