French ban on GM maize under fire
By Ed Bray | Wednesday 04 April 2012
As the planting season gets into full swing, the French government has come under fire from a group of maize farmers and seed companies for imposing a fresh ban on growing genetically modified (GM) maize, after the first was deemed illegal by the highest court. Paris renewed its ban, on 16 March, claiming the move was justified by the results of a study on the safety of GM maize Bt11, published by the EU’s Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in December 2011. The findings show that cultivation of this maize poses “significant risks for the environment” – including possible negative impacts on sensitive insect populations – which are relevant to MON810, former French Environment Minister NathalieKosciusko-Morizet said at the time.
But the maize producers’ association AGPM, the seed company group UFS and the interprofessional group FNPSMS have challenged the ban at the country’s highest court, saying the move was not scientifically justified and would prove costly to farms. The new ban has “no serious scientific basis” and maize producers hit by harmful pests would suffer “a major economic disadvantage,” they said in a statement.
The challengers have strong reason to be hopeful after France’s previous safeguard clause was deemed unlawful by the top court in November last year. The ruling, based on a similar judgement by the EU Court of Justice, found that France’s safeguard clause had not been sufficiently justified.
Six further EU countries have imposed national safeguards on the cultivation of MON810, the EU’s only GM crop for food and feed (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Luxembourg and Bulgaria). Commission officials commented that EFSA would now assess France’s request to decide whether new evidence supports their claim. If the court rules in the challengers’ favour, fresh doubts would be raised as to the validity of other EU bans.