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French PM maintains ban on GM crops

Published time: September 17, 2012 21:20
Edited time: September 18, 2012 01:20
Anti-GMO activists rip open bags containing "MON 810", a variety of genetically modified maize (corn) developed by Monsanto Company (AFP Photo / Eric Cabanis)

Anti-GMO activists rip open bags containing "MON 810", a variety of genetically modified maize (corn) developed by Monsanto Company (AFP Photo / Eric Cabanis)

France will uphold a ban on genetically modified crops as President Francois Hollande pushes his plan to put the environment back at the top of the international agenda.

The ban targets corn produced by the multinational conglomerate Monsanto, the maker of the only genetically modified organism currently allowed for cultivation in Europe.

Monsanto markets MON 810 maize, under the trade name Yield Guard, as being resistant to insects and other pests that threaten harvests.

Every country in the EU reserves the right to legislate on whether or not to ban genetically modified (GM) crops.

The European Court of Justice has been in disagreement with the French government over its decision after the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) concluded back in 2008 "that no specific scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health or the environment, was provided that would justify the invocation of a safeguard clause," referring to a potential ban.

Then-President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed with that analysis, and swiftly pledged to seek new legal measures after the ruling.

But in 2011, a French court overturned the Efsa decision, with then-Agriculture Minister Bruno Marie saying the move was “to protect the environment.”

Last November his decision was upheld by France's top administrative court, and in March this year, a ban was introduced.

Many in the French government, as well as GM activists, believe the modified crops could pose a danger to plants and animals in the wider ecosystem.

In a separate incident earlier this year, a French court found Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning after Lyon farmer claimed he had suffered neurological problems from inhaling a weed killer made by the firm.

The French prime minster has also announced that he intends to ban the spraying of pesticides by aircraft.

France has a powerful agriculture sector, and the French public is mainly opposed to the use of GM crops and chemicals in farming.

France also has a history of defying Brussels and protecting its national interests in areas relating to agriculture. France fought to keep the EU-wide Common Agricultural Policy, where richer countries like Germany subsidize farmers in poorer areas, like many in France.

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