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France to Ask E.U. to Halt Approvals on Genetically Modified Organisms



        June 24, 1999


        France to Ask E.U. to Halt Approvals on Genetically Modified Organisms

        By REUTERS

            PARIS -- France said Wednesday it would ask the
            European Union to halt cultivation of new
        genetically modified organisms until rules on their use
        can be drafted. 

        But it will not change its internal policy or approval
        procedures for the controversial crops, the government
        said. 

        As E.U. environment ministers prepare to meet
        Thursday to settle differences on the bloc's genetically
        modified (GM) crop policy, France said it would ask
        the E.U. to suspend the approval process for new
        strains of GM crops until further regulations can be
        written. 

        After a meeting between Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
        and the French health, environment, consumer affairs
        and farm ministers, the government said it would ask
        the E.U. to introduce a labeling system to identify foods
        produced from GM crops in response to consumer
        outcry. 

        The ministers agreed to maintain France's position,
        meaning France will keep its approval process for new
        GM strains. The ministers' decision also means that
        some types of GM maize can still be grown in France
        and that GM rapeseed remains banned. 

        Environment Minister Dominique Voynet, a member of
        France's Green party, said France would not support
        the position of the European Commission at Thursday's
        meeting in Luxembourg. 

        "The proposal of the commission... is not acceptable as
        it does not make any reference to traceability, which is
        essential to consumers, and to labelling," Voynet told
        reporters after the meeting with Jospin. 

        "We will not agree to a vote tomorrow on a text that is
        not satisfactory," she said. 

        But her own Green party accused the government of
        ambiguity on the issue, saying it regretted France had
        not approved a moratorium on the cultivation and sale
        of GM crops. 

        The E.U. is trying to amend legislation on releasing
        new GM organisms amid growing public concern about
        the safety of food derived from crops altered by
        biotechnology. 

        It also faces increasing U.S. pressure to open its market
        to GM crops grown by U.S. farmers and marketed by
        U.S. life sciences firms. 

        Some ministers, including Voynet, have called for more
        vigilance on GM crops after a report from researchers
        at Cornell University indicated that pollen from a
        variety of GM maize could hurt the larvae of monarch
        butterflies. 

        France authorized the cultivation of transgenic maize in
        1997 but banned growing GM rapeseed amid fears that
        it could harm the environment. Twelve varieties of GM
        maize can currently be grown in France, according to
        environmental group Greenpeace. 


              Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company