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FoE PR concerning French court's maize decision

----- Forwarded message from Gill Lacroix <> -----

Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 10:01:33 -0500
From: Gill Lacroix <>
Subject: FoE PR concerning French court's maize decision
To: GENET News <>

mailinglist genet-news
                                                        PRESS RELEASE
11th December 1998
For immediate distribution


"A Victory for the Precautionary Principle" says Friends of the Earth

France's Conseil d'Etat decided today to maintain its prior decision of
25th September to suspend the French ministerial decree of 5th February
1998 authorising the cultivation of Novartis's genetically modified (GM)
maize, and to refer the issue to the European Court of Justice.

The decision by the Conseil d'Etat - France's highest administrative court
- to suspend the authorisation followed appeals by Friends of the Earth
(FoE), Greenpeace, Ecoropa and the Confédération Paysanne, which submitted
evidence to the Conseil's judges that the authorisation had been granted on
the basis of an application by Novartis which was incomplete, in particular
with respect to the presence in the maize of a marker gene conferring
resistance to the antibiotic ampicillin.  The court's ruling in September
came too late to preclude the sowing of Novartis maize and it is estimated
that some 1,500-2,000 and 16,000 hectares were cultivated this summer in
France and Spain respectively.  Other EU Member States, however, have taken
a much more cautious approach, with Austria and Luxembourg imposing
national bans on the import and cultivation of Novartis maize since early

Today's decision by the Conseil d'Etat that the question should be referred
to the ECJ indicates that it is actually in favour of overturning the
authorisation.  However, it is seeking the ECJ's opinion on two legal
questions in relation to the EU directive regulating the deliberate release
of genetically modified organisms(*), notably whether a Member State which
has forwarded an application to the European Commission is subsequently
obliged to give its final written consent for market approval, and whether
that Member State retains some right of determination. 

The Conseil d'Etat's decision reinforces the wide-spread disapproval of
Novartis's GM maize throughout Europe, according to Friends of the Earth. 
"The first genetically modified crop approved for cultivation in the EU has
generated extreme controversy since the very beginning", said Gill Lacroix
of FoE Europe's Biotechnology Programme.  "It's a scandal that it was ever
granted market release in the first place since 13 out of the 15 EU
Environment Ministers voted against its authorisation in 1996, but it was
nevertheless approved by the European Commission - something that would not
be possible under the proposed revision of the relevant EU Directive".

Welcoming the Conseil d'Etat's decision as a victory for "the Precautionary
Principle" that FoE wants to see applied with regard to all deliberate
releases of genetically modified organisms, Lacroix said that other EU
Member States where Novartis maize has been grown this year, such as Spain
and Germany, should now reconsider their position in light of the French

(*) EU Directive 90/220/EEC

For more information :
Anne Castelain, FoE France, T. 33-1-4734.0454
Gill Lacroix, FoE Europe, T. 32-2-542.0182
Dan Leskien, FoE Europe/Germany, T. 49.40.431.897.66
Genet News

----- End forwarded message -----