France Says No to GMO Corn

Image by Peter Ansell for La Jeune Politique

Image by Peter Ansell for La Jeune Politique

The French National Assembly passed a bill this week to ban the planting of transgenic corn within the country’s borders, in a new attempt to perennially ban MON810 corn.

The bill’s main objective is to legally secure the ban on American agro-giant Monsanto’s genetically modified corn species, including Pioneer TC1507. The bill also confers to administrative authorities the power to decide on the destruction of crops violating the moratorium.

A preliminary ban was decreed in mid-March just before the sowing season. This decree affirmed that the precautionary principle justifies the adoption of restrictive measures. Given recent scientific data and results from international research, the cultivation and harvest of varieties of genetically modified corn without adequate controls would present serious risks for the environment, as well as a danger of spreading harmful, resistant organisms.

The Parti Socialiste (PS), Ecologistes, Parti Radical de Gauche (PRG), and the Front de Gauche (FN) voted for the ban. The Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), against the ban for its ideology of refusing scientific progress, left the hemicycle to abstain from voting, rather than voting against. Christian Jacob, President of the UMP at the Assembly, called it an “unconstitutional text,” and contrary to European law.

European regulations could be interpreted as favoring GMOs because the governing body requires scientific proof of an “important risk, putting human and animal health, as well as the environment, in danger.” Member States are able to ban within their territory any GMO that is authorized by the European Union.

Two agricultural organizations, the Union française des semenciers and the Association générale des producteurs de maïs, criticized the bill for inhibiting the right to access biotechnological innovations.

Despite the existing legislation, there is still a chance that genetically modified crops will be introduced in the future; the likelihood of the regulation’s annulment by the Conseil d’Etat is particularly high. Similar legislation has already been annulled twice, in 2008 and 2011, for failure to respect the European Union’s regulations, due to the fact that scientific arguments put forth by the French government were not sufficiently supported.

MON 810 is currently the only GMO corn variety cultivated in the European Union. Renewal of the authorization is currently under review, in parallel with discussions on reviewing the process for evaluating GMOs.

A crop destined for animal feed, it was originally created with the goal of improving yields. An insecticide gene is implanted in the plant in order to destroy the corn borer caterpillars, one of the major crop destroyers.

Cross-contamination continues to be a main concern with GMOs. On April 15, Greenpeace revealed a study claiming that certified non-GMO crops sold in 2013 and 2014 by the seed company Semillas Fitó to French farmers may have contained up to six different GMOs.

Genetically modified crops, failing to respond to consumer demands, do not have a place in the French market. Furthermore, the existence of GMOs would confine French agriculture to an industrial model, rather than the ecological model promoted by the French government, according to France nature environnement (FNE). Allowing transgenic crops to be cultivated would be in direct conflict with the interests of both the government and the people.

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