Day 15 of hunger strike in France against GMOs (28/3/2007)

Thursday, March 29, 2007, 15th day of hunger strike for a moratorium on GMOs effective before the spring sowing season


*Unacceptable health risks
*Guaranteed contamination of conventional and organic crops
*Loss of markets for French agriculture
*Confiscation of life through patents
*No solid legal framework
*Strategy based on force
*War in the countryside
*An issue of European and global importance
*One possible solution: the moratorium
*One hesitating candidate still remaining: Nicolas Sarkozy


The French population and farmers do not want GMOs neither on their plates nor in the fields. For the past ten years the French population and farmers' opposition to the presence of GMOs in the fields and on consumers' plates has been increasingly reinforced. The latest polls indicate that 86% of French citizens refuse GMOs and 62% of French farmers are favorable to a moratorium.

Unacceptable health risks

The only GMO currently available for cultivation in France, the MON 810 Bt maize producing its own insecticide, is closely related to MON 863 Bt insecticide maize, which as revealed by a recent scientific study (Seralini/Greenpeace), provokes kidney and liver lesions in rats fed with MON 863 Bt corn. The long-term effects of MON 810 on health and the environment have never been evaluated. Authorized in 1998 this transgenic corn variety has not been subject to evaluation requirements imposed only as of 2001. Its cultivation and consumption constitute criminal risks on consumers' health and they are contrary to the constitutional principle of precaution.

Guaranteed contamination of conventional and organic crops

A great number of scientific studies show that nothing can stop the wind or insects from disseminating pollen. According to tests carried out in the summer of 2006, beehives located at a distance exceeding 1 km from a transgenic cornfield in the region of Lot et Garonne (France) contained 40% of contaminated pollen. Yves Brunet, a scientific from Bordeaux, demonstrated that maize pollen could rise to an altitude of up to 1800m and settle several km away fertilizing other corn plants. The massive contamination of conventional rice by transgenic rice trials in the United States (US) provoked a brutal collapse of its sale on the international market. Many US farmers have gone bankrupt and have submitted a complaint against the US government and Bayer, the multinational company responsible for the contamination. All evidence shows that 'coexistence' is impossible and the cultivation of GMOs in open fields infringes on the freedom of choice of farmers and consumers, who do not want GMOs.

Loss of markets for French agriculture

French farmers sell the majority of their produce in France and Europe, markets known for their refusal of GMOs. Any risk of contamination will provoke the loss of consumers' confidence and the ruin of several thousands of farmers. It is in the best interest of French agriculture to defend its most remunerative market rather than taking the risk of losing it by running after a less remunerative niche that will only enrich seed companies.

Confiscation of the living through patents

With the introduction of GMOs, plants capable of self-reproduction are for the first time in French history protected by patents. A group of French citizens from Toulouse who have picked up a handful of corn cobs fallen on the ground after harvest are currently pursued (March 27, 2007) by the multinational Pioneer, the patent's owner, for theft of 'intellectual property'. The farmers whose fields might also be contaminated by patented genes against their will are also liable to be pursued.

No solid legal framework

Faced with scandals around the deficiency and the falsification of results linked to studies carried out by firms the European evaluation system is being reformed. French deputies refused to vote the law on generalized contamination as proposed by the French government. The decrees recently published without any democratic debate fail to resolve the problem. There is no legal framework today on questions of responsibility and reparations of sanitary, environmental or economic damage caused by GM-crops.

Strategy based on force

In this context large seed cooperatives in France incite their members for the first time in 2007 to cultivate transgenic corn and commit themselves to purchase their harvest. They anticipate that in 2007 between 30,000 ha to 50,000 ha of transgenic corn will be cultivated in France. Thus they hope to generalize contamination in order to compel decision-makers to accept GM crops through legislation. This strategy of 'fait accompli' is unacceptable and criminal.

War in the countryside

The majority of French farmers refuses to cultivate GMOs and do not accept the risks that such a strategy based on force engenders. The threats of conflict between farmers who are members of the same cooperatives or are living in the same village are spreading and tensions are increasingly palpable, particularly in the South West. This situation constitutes a serious threat to the integrity of social fabric in the French countryside.

An issue of European and global importance

Austria, Hungary, Poland, Greece and Italy adopted laws that refuse GM-crops. The United Kingdom, albeit refusing them on its own territory, continues to support them in other EU countries. Only Spain continues to cultivate them. If France, the main European producer, will oppose it than Spain will be unable to continue with its practice on the long run. Europe will remain the only significant GM-free territory on the planet on which other countries from the Global South can rely in order to withstand their submission to the confiscation of people's right to food sovereignty through the patents of some multinationals. If France accepts GMOs, food-related conflicts will spread.

One possible solution: the moratorium

In accordance with European regulation, in particular article 23 of Directive 2001/18 on the 'safeguard clause', Austria and Hungary adopted a moratorium on transgenic maize varieties currently authorized in Europe. The European Council on the Environment has recently approved of these moratoriums partly thanks to the favorable vote of the French representative. Nothing stands in the way of the French government to issue a notification similar to the one issued by the European Commission, as it already proceeded in the case of GM-rapeseed. This moratorium has to be adopted prior to the sowing season starting in April as following this deadline it will be much more difficult to demand the cleaning up of fields already planted with GM-maize. Consequently it is the responsibility of the current government lead by the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) to take this decision prior to the elections in May 2007.

One hesitating candidate still remaining: Nicolas Sarkozy

All presidential candidates except the UMP's adopted a position favorable to the moratorium. Is it his wish to leave an unmanageable situation to Jacques Chirac's successor? Eleven days remain to convince him.

Guy Kastler

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