French government moves to reintroduce ban on GM crops

Farming News, February 20 2014

The French government has announced that it intends to maintain a moratorium on cultivation of genetically modified crops on French territory, despite the opposition of legislators in the EU.

On Tuesday, Philippe Martin and Stéphane Le Foll, French ministers for Ecology and Agriculture announced in a joint statement that they would “reaffirm the consistent position of the Government for maintaining a moratorium on the cultivation of GM seeds.”

The pair said that draft legislation had been submitted for public consultation on Monday, which, if approved, will come into force before the next planting season, preventing cultivation of GM maize for another year. The maize – Monsanto’s MON810 – is currently the only GM crop licensed for production in Europe, though it is banned in eight member states.

The legality of these bans has been challenged by EU courts and the crop’s manufacturers, especially measures taken in France, which have been subject to lengthy legal disputes. France, the EU’s main agricultural powerhouse, is perhaps the most conspicuous and vocal anti-GM voice in Europe.

However, this year’s legislation may not be so easily introduced; an earlier bill seeking to ban GM maize from France was rejected by the Senate. Even so the Ministers welcomed an announcement by Bruno Le Roux, President of the Socialists in the National Assembly, who introduced fresh proposals to ban GM maize on Tuesday. This new bill will be discussed in the Assembly in April.

The French ministers said that, beyond the short-term measures of a ministerial order and a fresh bill in the Assembly, the government wants its European partners to propose a new Community framework for authorising cultivation of GM crops.

Health Commissioner Tonio Borg announced last month that he wants to see a revival of proposals to allow individual member states to block cultivation of GM crops from their territories, as a conciliatory accompaniment to talks on licensing a controversial new strain of GM maize in Europe. Proposals for licensing GM crops on a state-by-state basis were discussed last year under the Danish presidency of the EU, but talks broke down.

Le Foll and Martin said they support a new framework which would allow member states to make their own decisions on whether to allow cultivation of GM crops, once these had been subject to health and environmental assessment at European level. The pair said “each Member State should be able to determine the authorisation of GMOs [genetically modified organisms] according to their own criteria.”

In Past debates on the ‘Danish compromise’ in the EU, France has been amongst the blocking states.

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