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French industry to appeal ‘unjustified’ ban on GM maize

03-Apr-2012

French maize growers and seed companies have appealed a ban on the cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically modified maize to the country's highest court, arguing that the ban is unjustified and economically harmful.

The appeal comes after France placed a temporary bar on the growth of Monsanto's MON810 GMO maize earlier this month.A previous ban from 2008 was overturned by the country's top court – the Council of State – in November of 2011, on the basis that it was not sufficiently justified.

However the French Government recently called on the European Commission to ban the insect-resistant MON108 strain of maize, urging European regulators to overturn the authorisation for the use of genetically modified MON 810 maize crop. The French ecology ministry said in a statement that the European Union did not act, the country would invoke “the safeguard clause," said the ministry – referring to laws that allow EU nations to independently restrict or prohibit the sales of products.

Last month, the French authorities followed through on the threat of action, setting up a new temporary ban on the GM maize crops – a move which has now angered industry.

"This restriction does not rely on any serious scientific element,” said industry members in a joint statement.

The statement, released by French growers group AGPM, French seed firms group UFS and the maize and sorghum producers federation FNPSMS argued that maize producers, will be hit by damage from insects, and “sustain real financial damage.”

No to GMO?

Last month FoodNavigator gave you, its readers the chance to answer whether GM crops such as Monsanto’s MON810 should be banned in Europe. The poll was included alongside the initial news of France’s calls for an EU wide ban on the cultivation of the genetically modified maize crop - found here .

The poll received a total of 1048 reader votes – with more than more than two thirds (71%) voting ‘yes’ in favour of a ban on GM crops. However nearly one quarter (24%) of our readers responded to disagreed, voting no – believing that GM ‘is the future’.

Very few respondents were undecided on the issue, with just 1% citing that the decision was ‘a tough call’, and only 3% believing that more data is needed before regulators can come up with an answer to the ‘debate’ over GM crops.

French dispute

The initial 2008 veto of MON810 was put in place after the French government ruled that the GM maize was a “serious risk to the environment.” However, a court ruling last November found that the Government had not produced enough evidence to back its claims that the crop posed a risk to health or the environment. But now the French ministry of environment and sustainable development has argued that results of recent scientific research do show the health and environmental risks of the GM product.

Earlier this year Monsanto announced plants to scrap the sale of its genetically modified MON810 maize in France, “this year, or anytime in the future,” despite a recent high court ruling that overturned a 3-year ban on its sale.

EFSA opinion

In 2008 EFSA published a positive opinion on MON810 – otherwise known as YieldGuard. In its report the regulator disputed French claims that the genetically modified maize product poses a potential risk to health and the environment.

At the time, the panel on Genetically Modified Organisms concluded that “in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, the provided information package does not present new scientific evidence that would invalidate the previous risk assessments of maize MON810”.

However, following publication of the decision eco-campaigners Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth released a report opposing the decision. According to the campaigners’ joint report, EFSA’s opinion was “totally biased by a multitude of approximations and omissions”.

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