French GM ban infuriates farmers, delights environmentalists

12th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

France officially banned Saturday a strain of genetically modified corn from US agribusiness giant Monsanto, delighting environmentalists

   PARIS, Febraury 12, 2008 - France officially banned Saturday a strain of
genetically modified corn from US agribusiness giant Monsanto, delighting
environmentalists but sparking outrage from the company and French farmers.
   At least one association planned a legal challenge to the ruling, but
leading environmental campaigner Jose Bove welcomed the decision, describing
it as the fruit of a 10-year battle by anti-GM groups.
   A spokeswoman for Monsanto said Saturday that France's decision to outlaw
the use of the MON810 strain of corn, the only GM crop grown in France, "had
no scientific basis".
   She added: "Monsanto is studying all the legal options to defend the
liberty of French farmers to use safe and authorised products."
   Farmers affected by the decision expressed their frustration Saturday.
   "France finds itself isolated and the south-west penalised against Spanish
competition, which does not apply the same rules," said Dominique Barrau, a
farmers' union leader from the southwest of the country, bordering Spain.
   His part of France would be particularly hard hit, he said, as 80 percent
of GM crops grown in France were planted in the southwest Pyrenees and
Aquitaine regions.
   Bove, who launched a hunger strike last month along with 15 colleagues over
the issue, said the ban was overdue.
   "We are satisfied this morning, that after 10 years of combat the MON810
corn has been banned from cultivation," he said.
   "There will be no MON810 cultivation in France in 2008 and that is a good
thing," he told France 2 television.
   Bove, who has staged several hunger strikes, has been convicted of ripping
up GM crops in southern France.
   The question is already set to go before France's Council of State after
the General Association of Corn Producers (AGPM) warned in late January that
they would challenge the ruling there.
   With the law requiring a hearing within three weeks, corn producers could
still plant the variety of GM corn this spring if France's highest
administrative court supports their appeal, said AGPM director Luc Esprit.
   The association estimates the ban would cause farmers losses of some 10
million euros (15 million dollars).
   France officially imposed the ban with the publication of an agriculture
ministry order in the state's official journal.
   "The growing of corn seeds ... derived from genetically modified corn
strain MON810 is prohibited on [French] territory," read the order, signed by
Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier.
   Last year, 22,000 hectares (55,000 acres) were sown with the product --
less than one percent of the sown acreage for corn in France.
   The French government began moves for a ban last month after a watchdog
authority said it had "serious doubts" about the product.
   Chairman Jean-Francois Le Grand, who also holds a seat in the Senate, said
evidence had emerged that MON810 had an effect on insects, a species of
earthworm and micro-organisms.
   There was also concern that wind-borne pollen from MON810 could travel much
further than previously thought -- perhaps as much as hundreds of miles
(kilometres), said Le Grand.
   But the report remains controversial: 12 of the 15 scientists who compiled
it issued a statement complaining that Le Grand had misrepresented their


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