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French law temporarily bans GM-maize planting while larger ban gains steam

Published time: February 18, 2014 02:21
AFP Photo / Eric Cabanis

AFP Photo / Eric Cabanis

The French government issued a decree Monday forbidding farmers to plant genetically-modified maize in the immediate future while the government drafts a comprehensive law that will attempt to ban the practice nationwide.

French officials maintain that GM crops constitute a serious environmental risk, despite a senior court striking down two national prohibitions on GM maize (corn) in recent time. GM opponents were also frustrated recently by the European Union, which failed to agree on whether or not to ban a new strand of GM-maize. The lack of consensus makes it more likely that the EU Commission will approve its cultivation.

Genetically-modified crops have drawn the attention of much of the international community because they are scientifically produced to resist herbicides. Yet little independent research has studied at what cost that modification does to humans who ingest those same crops.

Among the most commonly cited causes for concern is the skyrocketing resistance to antibiotics, although increased toxicity in food and lower nutritional values are also considered factors.

GM maize has been no exception to the controversy, with many scientists and environmentalists decrying the unconventional food as an unsafe and unnecessary replacement to standard corn.

The French law forbidding GM maize will go into full effect by March 9, after an estimated three weeks of government consultations and in time to prevent manipulated maize when the sowing season begins in the latter half of March.

This will prevent there being a period during which GM maize could be sown,” a French farm ministry spokesman told Reuters.

The announcement came on the same day that the French Senate began debating more comprehensive domestic legislation on Monday. That law, which is expected to be voted on in April, will seek to make planting of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) illegal.

France is also lobbying other European Union countries to sign a letter that would warn the Commission not to approve Pioneer 1507.

Those who believe in the value of the EU to its citizens are rightly concerned how this will play out in the upcoming European elections,” the letter said

Pioneer 1507, the aforementioned strand of maize that the countries could not decide on, was developed jointly by DuPoint and Dow Chemical and has been the subject of no small amount of public suspicion. The document has already been signed by ministers from Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemborg, Malta, Poland, and Slovenia.

We need to give a legal framework to those countries that do not wish to see GM maize grown,” French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told France Inter radio Sunday, as quoted by Reuters.

MON810 corn is the only GM crop currently grown in Europe with the EU’s approval. Four other crops have been approved, Agence France Presse reported, but the Monsanto maize is the single example that has not been abandoned.