GENET archive


6-Regulation: French Government adopts EU rules on GM crops

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SOURCE: Agence France Press, posted by The Tocqueville Connection, USA
DATE:   08 Feb 2006

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PARIS, Feb 8, 2006 (AFP) - The French cabinet Wednesday adopted a bill
that brings the country into line with EU rules on crop trials and
cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), despite fierce
opposition from green activists.

A government spokesman said the bill reflected both the concerns of
environmentalists and the needs of scientific research, but critics
charged that it paved the way for an uncontrolled spread of GMO cultivation.

"We decided not to close the door (to GMO technologies), while keeping a
close watch on what is done," said junior research minister Francois Goulard.

Faced with deep public distrust of GMOs, France has dragged its feet
over implementing European Union directives from 2001 and 2003 but now
faces heavy fines unless it moves to write the rules into national

Parliament is to start debating the bill by next month, and the
government hopes a law will be adopted by the end of the year.

Sixty percent of the French are hostile to GMO crops, polls show, and 78
percent would back a temporary moratorium until their impact on health
and the environment is fully understood.

Campaign groups including Greenpeace and the Small Farmers Confederation
of anti-globalisation campaigner Jose Bove -- who has been jailed for
destroying GMO crops -- have led fierce opposition to any loosening of
the rules on GMOs.

Court decisions last year acquitting two groups of activists who
destroyed GMO crops have further bolstered their opponents.

Under the French bill, farmers would have to officially register any
plantation of modified crops, filling a legal void that allowed 1,000
hectares (2,500 acres) of GMO maize (corn) to be grown undeclared last
year -- out of 90 million hectares grown worldwide.

The public would be consulted about any new GMO trials, while any sale
of GMOs would need prior authorisation and be subject to strict
labelling rules.

Green party deputy Noel Mamere slammed the bill as a "masquerade" that
would fail to ensure transparency over the risks of GMO crops, repeating
calls for a five-year moratorium on the cultures.

By general consensus, the early generation of GM plants -- mostly maize,
soya, cotton and colza (rape or canola) -- has so far had no effect on
human health.

Environmentalists though say that not enough time has elapsed to assess
the long-term impacts of GM crops, even though a second, more
sophisticated generation of plants is about to emerge from the labs.

Many scientists share this concern. Their worry is that the inserted
genes in GM crops contaminate other species through wind-borne pollen.

The big champion of GM foods is the United States, which accuses the EU
of erecting de facto trade barriers against GM products that Washington
insists are safe.

The World Trade Organisation on Tuesday backed the United States and
other GM-producing countries by ruling that a European moratorium on GMO
imports was born of protectionism rather than concerns about health or
the environment, according to diplomats in Geneva.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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