French ban on GMO maize cultivation gets final approval

Paris | Reuters –– The French parliament gave final approval on Monday to a law prohibiting the cultivation of any variety of genetically modified maize in the European Union’s top grain producer, where a majority of people remain strongly opposed to foods based on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The French Senate voted on a law already adopted by the lower house of parliament last month that banned GMO maize (corn) cultivation, even though it has been cleared at European Union level, saying it poses a risk to the environment.

“This law aims to give a legal framework to our country, to ensure that a ban is applied,” the French agriculture minister, Stephane Le Foll, told the Senate at the start of the debate.

France adopted a decree in March halting the sowing of Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize, the sole GMO crop allowed for cultivation in the European Union.

The law also applies to any strain adopted at EU level in future, including the GM variety Pioneer 1507, developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical. That product might be approved by the EU executive later this year, after 19 of the 28 member states failed to gather enough votes to block it.

The Socialist government, like its conservative predecessor, has opposed growing GMOs because of public suspicion and widespread protests by environmentalists.


On Friday, activists attacked a field in southwestern France whose owner had reported sewing the land with MON810 a few days before the decree banning it was published mid-March, the farm ministry said. Only one other farmer, using seeds bought in Spain, declared sewing GM maize this season, the ministry said.

If definitive tests, expected in the next few days, confirm initial results that these fields were sown with GMO, they will be destroyed, the ministry said.

In a separate move, France’s top administrative court on Monday rejected an emergency procedure begun by French growers to annul the decree banning MON810 maize.

Producers called on the court strike it down in substance, as it had done in 2011 and 2013, saying there was insufficient justification.

Longstanding differences between EU countries resurfaced in February when they failed to agree on whether or not to approve the GMO maize variety Pioneer 1507, leaving the way open to the EU Commission to clear it for cultivation.

The debate on the future of GMO policy is continuing at EU level, with Greece, which holds the rotating EU presidency, working on an compromise with an opt-out that would allow individual countries to ban such crops.

— Reporting for Reuters by Sybille de La Hamaide from Paris.

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