French president wants ban on Monsanto corn variety to continue

02 August 2013 22:54  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Despite the ruling by the Conseil d’Etat, French President Francois Hollande said Friday that he is going to push to continue the ban imposed on US agribusiness titan Monsanto, preventing it from selling genetically modified corn that is widely used by farmers globally.

Hollande said that the government will push to extend the ban but added that French authorities would need to make sure its action would be deemed acceptable under national status and the authority of the European Commission.

He said it should not appear that France is against the advancements of technology but rather is taking proactive measures to ensure public welfare and food safety when it comes to genetically modified organisms.

“Why do we have a moratorium on GMOs [genetically modified organisms]? Not because we are against progress but in the name of progress. We cannot accept that a product, a corn, may have adverse consequences on other productions,” said Hollande.

The Conseil d’Etat, the country’s top administrative court ruled on Thursday that the restrictions were not justified and further sustained the order by stating the decision was made in accordance with a directive approved by the European Commission.

The court said that under guidelines from the EU's Court of Justice, the ban could only be taken in cases of emergency or in response to situations, which represented a threat to human health, animal health or the environment.

The court’s ruling appeared to clear the way for the commercial distribution of Monsanto’s variety known as MON810. This strain includes genetics whereby the corn releases a natural toxin that once consumed by insects, kills the pest and reduces the need to spray pesticides.

Genetically modified crops have come under tremendous scrutiny in both the US and in Europe as environmentalist and food safety activist have asserted that these crops are dangerous and pose significant risk to human health once consumed.

Monsanto has not responded to requests by ICIS to comment on the court’s decision.

France is Europe’s leading grain producer and has recently taken center stage as the most vocal opponents of modified crops. The nation’s agriculture officials had taken to the offensive following the ruling and announced that they would be back in the court in order to get the seed variety ban before the country’s farmers begin planting next spring.

In July, Monsanto announced it was abandoning its plans to seek more approval for biotech crops in Europe and instead renew its efforts to increase the conventional seed business. Currently the MON810 is only being utilised on limited acreage overseas, most notably in Spain.

By: Mark Milam
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