Original French article here
English translation below by Marcus Williamson
EXTRACTS: Coexistence will be determined according to the principle that "the choice of some should not impact the choice of others", says M. Le Grand [UMP senator for la Manche]. "There must not be pollination of organic fields by GMOs."
"Everyone is in agreement on the GM issue: it is not possible to control their spread. So we will not take the risk." - Jean-Louis Borloo, French minister of the environment
France moves towards a freeze on growing GM crops
by Christophe Jakubyszyn and Herve Kempf
Le Monde, 20 September 2007
The French government is planning to seriously reduce the spread of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). In the context of the "Grenelle of the environment" it is preparing a freeze on the commercialisation of GM seeds, whilst authorising the continuation of laboratory research.
Jean-Louis Borloo, minister for ecology, development and sustainable management, confided this information to a group of majority parliamentarians whom he invited on Monday 17 September. The minister confirmed to Le Monde : "Everyone is in agreement on the GM issue: it is not possible to control their spread. So we will not take the risk."
This decision is one of the elements which will allow M. Borloo to obtain a general compromise during the Grenelle round-table which will take place at the end of October.
Although this position is still not official, it demonstrates the progress made by the group "OGM du Grenelle de l'environnement". This group, which will meet again on 21 September, is led by Jean-Francois Le Grand (UMP senator for la Manche). He has already been working on the principles of a new law on GMOs which would make growing them more difficult and restrict authorisations more rigorously than at present.
"I have had several conversations with Jean-Louis Borloo", says Jean-Francois Le Grand. "He told me clearly that there would not be a moratorium but that all authorisations are currently frozen and this situation will continue until the law is voted on."
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, secretary of state for ecology, explained to Le Monde: "The question of a moratorium is being actively discussed and envisaged but the word covers different legal realities : on growing, on trials in open fields, on this or that GMO, by non-renewal of authorisations, etc. Nothing is yet definite."
Interviewed by Le Monde, Michel Barnier, minister for agriculture, defends research on GM crops "when it is conducted in a modest, limited, controlled manner for the purpose of research in open fields." But "there is a second question which must no longer be taboo, that is of the commercial growing of GM crops - 22,000 hectares of maize during 2007 in France. This is an open question, which deserves evaluating after ten years of authorisation, to question the overall benefit for our society."
The freeze will be implemented through the refusal of new authorisations from the point at which the law is voted in. This is made easier by the fact that the only GM crop grown in France is MON 810 maize. Its authorisation expires in 2007 and must be renewed at European level.
Other plants are currently going through the authorisation process. France could refuse to give its agreement which would prevent the large scale growing of transgenic maize from the next farming season.
CREATION OF A HIGH AUTHORITY
The law will reinforce checks on the growing of GM crops. It will create a new High Authority on biotechnology including a broad range of scientific disciplines and associations. "Today", said M. Le Grand, "the scientific evaluation of GMOs is one-sided and is only carried out by biotechnology engineers. It is necessary that this be widened to a multi-disciplinary approach."
The High Authority would give its advice to government on new GMOs, integrating a more stringent toxicological analysis but also the examination of the social and economic interests of the transgenic product.
The law would also see a regime of responsibility in case of contamination and a public register of GM cultivation applications. Coexistence will be determined according to the principle that "the choice of some should not impact the choice of others", says M. Le Grand. "There must not be pollination of organic fields by GMOs."
The government has sent another positive signal to those who oppose GMOs. Jose Bove and four others appeared in court in Carcassonne on 19 September for having carried out an action at the Monsanto factory in the Aude during 2006. The prosecutor, Jean-Paul Dupont, recommended that the case be postponed.
The tribunal at Carcassonne has gone further, as, at the request of the defence, it decided to postpone "sine die" [Latin: without day], meaning that they are dropping the case.
In other cases, due at Toulouse and Chartres, prosecutors have also requested postponement. This attitude shows that the government would like to appease the debate on GMOs.
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