France’s lower house of parliament passed a law Tuesday prohibiting genetically modified (GM) maize from being grown, citing environmental concerns. The law can be applied to any GM strain that is adopted at EU level.
The law follows a decree last month, which halted the planting of Monsanto’s insect-resistant maize MON810, which will be allowed for cultivation in the EU, Reuters reported.
But if any strain of GM crop is adopted in the future at EU level – including Pioneer 1507, which was developed by DuPont and Dow Chemical – it will be subsequently banned in France.
Pioneer 1507 could be approved by the EU later this year, after 19 of the 28 EU member states failed to gather enough votes to block it.
The law adopted Tuesday by France's lower house (National Assembly) is similar to one rejected by the upper house (Senate) in February, which was seen as unconstitutional.
“It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of GMO and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties” Jean Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, told the National Assembly.
The current Socialist-led government in France, like the previous conservative one, has opposed the growing of GM crops because of public suspicion and protests by environmentalists.
Le Guen called for an EU system that would make sure that the decisions of member states not to adopt GM crops could not be challenged legally.
A debate on the future of EU policy is going on at EU level, with the European Commission suggesting an opt-out that would allow individual countries to ban GM crops.
The French ban on GM maize will now have to go to the Senate for approval. However, even if it is rejected again, the National Assembly will have the final say.
While France is against genetically modified crops, the UK argues that without them, Europe risks becoming “the museum of world farming.” Spain also says its own farmers have to be able to compete with those outside the EU – many of whom are growing GM crops.
GM crops, though still unpopular in Europe, are widely grown in the US and Asia.