The French ecology ministry said in a statement that it had asked European regulators to overturn the authorisation for the use of genetically modified MON 810 maize crops produced by US agriculture and biotechnology giant Monsanto.
The ministry statement said the new request is "based on the latest scientific studies" which show the use of the GM crops "pose significant risks for the environment."
It pointed to a recent study conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that raised concerns with another form of GM crop, BT11 – stating that the findings of the BT11 study could also be applied to MON810.
"If the European Union does not act, we can invoke the safeguard clause," said the ministry – referring to laws that allow EU nations to independently restrict or prohibit the sales of products.
Currently, six EU nations ban the cultivation of GM corn under the clause: Germany, Hungary, Greece, Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium.
Earlier this month 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.
In November, France’s highest court – the Council of State – overturned a 2008 ban on growing the insect-resistant MON108 strain of maize – which is grown in several other European countries. The French court decision followed a similar result in a case brought to the European Court of Justice last year.
The initial ban had been put in place in 2008 after the French government ruled that the GM maize was a “serious risk to the environment.” However, the French court ruled last November that the Government had not produced enough evidence to back its claims that the crop posed a risk to health or the environment.
Now the French ministry of environment and sustainable development has said that the results of recent scientific research show the health and environmental risks of the GM product.
The ministry warned that if the European authorities do not make a decision, France will apply the safeguard clause currently used by the six other EU member states.
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”.