The liability principle applies to environmental damage and to imminent threats of damage when they result from occupational activities, at the moment it is possible to establish a causal link between the damage and the activity in question.
The liability principle applies to occupational activities which are potentially dangerous as listed in Annex III of the Directive. It mainly concerns agricultural or industrial activities subject to permit in pursuance of the Directive concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (avoiding or minimising emissions in the atmosphere, the water and the soil, as well as waste from industrial or agricultural factories within the Community, with a view to achieve a high level of protection of the environment) from activities releasing heavy metals into the water or the air, or factories producing dangerous chemical substances, or waste management operations (mostly disposal sites and incineration plants), as well as activities pertaining to genetically modified organisms and genetically modified micro-organisms. According to the liability principle, the operator can be liable, even if he did not commit any misdemeanour.
This Directive makes it possible to make the operator liable for a deliberate dissemination of GMOs or GMMs which might have caused a direct or indirect damage to a plant species protected by Community legislation (in particular the 1992 Habitats Directive, the purpose of which is to maintain biological diversity through the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora. The Habitats Directive makes provisions for the implementation of the Natura 2000 Network of protected and conservation areas).
If a damage occurs, the competent authority will force the operator in question to take the necessary appropriate remedial measures: for example for a damage affecting the soil, the Directive demands a thorough decontamination until there is no serious risk of negative impact for human health any longer.
However, providing evidence of the harmful character of a genetic pollution remains an issue. On 30 September 2005, the Administrative Court of Limoges cancelled the decrees of 26 mayors in the Limousin region that banned, in their villages or towns the cultivation of GMOs in an open field on the grounds that an established genetic pollution risk is not “demonstrated”.