MON 810, marketed as YieldGuard, is the only GM crop which is cultivated commercially in Europe. In 2008 it was planted on 107,000 hectares in seven member states. The trait is resistant to the corn borer pest. But in France, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Luxembourg and Greece it has been banned, although the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave its opinion in June that the crop is safe – reiterating its original 1998 opinion on the crop.
The view of the biotech advisory council, Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies (HCB), was requested by the French government back in September – and it could influence whether France continues to enforce its ban on the crop.
The council’s call for more research on Tuesday has highlighted the chasm between supporters and opposition to GM crops in Europe, which has so far thwarted Monsanto’s ambitions in that market.
The Comité économique, éthique et social – one of two parts of the HCB – voted by a slim majority of 14 to 11 that the crop has more drawbacks than advantages, claiming that EFSA’s opinion is insufficient. Meanwhile, the Comité scientifique, the other part of the HCB, said that certain questions about the crop’s safety had not been answered due to a lack of research.
On the other hand, the French food safety agency AFSSA has reiterated its view that Monsanto’s GM maize is as safe as conventional maize, in agreement with EFSA.
There is a clause in EU law that allows member states to impose a ban despite EFSA’s opinion – and six nations have chosen to take advantage of it.