France to continue ban on GM crops

PARIS, France (Reuters) — France will use a new European Union opt-out provision to ensure that its ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops remains in place.

The EU’s largest grain grower and exporter has asked the European Commission to exclude France from some GM corn crop cultivation, the farm and environment ministries said in a joint statement.

As part of the opt-out process, France also passed legislation in the National Assembly that would allow it to oppose the cultivation of GM crops, even if ap-proved at the EU level, on the basis of certain criteria including environment and farm policy, land use, economic impact or civil order, the environment ministry added.

GM crops are widely grown in the Americas and Asia, but they have divided opinion in Europe. France had already banned cultivation of Monsanto’s GM corn, saying it had serious doubts that it is safe for the environment.

Monsanto has said its corn is harmless to humans and wildlife.

The opt-out process, which was agreed to in March, allows individual countries to seek exclusion from any approval request for GM cultivation in the EU or varieties already cleared as safe by the EU.

Monsanto’s MON810 corn variety is the only GM crop grown in Europe, where it has been cultivated in Spain and Portugal for a decade, but other corn crops are in the process of being approved at the EU level.

One of them is an insect-resistant corn variety known as 1507. Its developers, DuPont Pioneer and Dow Chemical, have been waiting nearly 15 years for the EU executive to authorize its cultivation.

The French request concerns nine GM corn strains, including some from Syngenta, said a spokesperson for the environment ministry.

Germany also intends to make use of the new EU rules to stop the production of GM crops.

The EC is responsible for approvals, but under the new rules, re-quests for opt-outs also have to be submitted to the company making the application.

Monsanto has said it will abide by requests from Latvia and Greece to be excluded from its application to grow a GM crop in the EU but accused them of ignoring science.

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