French experts say doubts remain on GMO maize risks (9/1/2008)

1.French experts say doubts remain on GMO maize risks - reuters
2.La Haute Autorité sur les OGM émet des 'doutes sérieux' sur le maïs MON 810 - Le Monde
3.France one step closer to extending GM ban - Food Navigator


1.French experts say doubts remain on GMO maize risks
By Sybille de La Hamaide Reuters, January 9 2008

PARIS, Jan 9 (Reuters) - French experts said on Wednesday serious doubts remained over whether the only genetically modified (GMO) crop grown in France was safe, a move likely to prompt the extension of a current ban on GMOs.

A government-appointed committee of scientists, farmers, politicians and non-governmental organisations had examined MON 810, a maize developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.

'The committee cannot say anything but that there are serious doubts on the use of MON 810,' the head of the committee, senator Jean-Francois Legrand, told a joint news conference with French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo.

Monsanto was not immediately available for comment.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday that if the experts expressed 'serious doubts' over GMO use, he would use a safeguard clause which allows European Union members to refrain from applying EU laws on the basis they may put the population at risk.

Borloo said Sarkozy would make a decision based on the report within 48 hours.

Last month France imposed a temporary ban on the commercial sale of MON 810 maize until February 9, to allow time to look into the environmental and health implications of its use.

However, the suspension did not have an immediate effect on crops because maize sowings only take place in the spring.

If France decides to use the safeguard clause, it would have to provide the European Commission, the EU's executive body, with proof that there is new scientific evidence justifying a ban on the genetically modified MON 810 maize.

The Commission would then have 60 days to decide on the validity of France's argument. If the Commission deemed it invalid, France would probably receive an order to lift its ban.

Legrand said the committee found new evidence arguing against the safety of the maize, including much wider dissemination than had been acknowledged in 1998 when the EU had evaluated it, as well as a negative impact on biodiversity.

The EU has approved the use of Monsanto's MON 810 technology around the 27-nation bloc, but several countries including France and Germany have expressed concern about its safety.

Germany agreed last month to lift its temporary ban on the maize after Monsanto agreed to extra crop monitoring there.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Tamora Vidaillet and Andrew Roche)


2.La Haute Autorité sur les OGM émet des 'doutes sérieux' sur le maïs MON 810
LEMONDE.FR avec AFP / 09.01.08 / 19h46

a Haute Autorité provisoire sur les OGM a 'relevé un certain nombre de faits scientifiques nouveaux négatifs impactant notamment la flore et la faune', dans son avis sur le maïs OGM MON 810, a indiqué, mercredi 9 janvier, son président, Jean-François Le Grand. 'Nous avons des doutes sérieux', a ajouté M. Le Grand, également sénateur UMP de la Manche, en remettant au ministre de l'écologie, Jean-Louis Borloo, les conclusions de cette commission. Selon le président de la Haute autorité, les éléments scientifiques nouveaux sont 'la dissémination à longue distance, sur plusieurs dizaines, voire centaines de kilomètres' de l'OGM en question, 'la résistance chez des insectes' et 'les effets constatés sur la flore et la faune', notamment sur le lombric et les micro-organismes.

Accédez à l'intégralité de cet article sur Lemonde.fr http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3244,36-997587,0.html


3.France one step closer to extending GM ban
By Laura Crowley

09/01/2008 - The French government declared yesterday that it is willing to apply an EU measure to implement a long term ban on genetically modified (GM) crops if a scientific panel decides their safety is questionable.

A temporary ban affecting commercial cultivation of GM crops was put in place by President Sarkozy last October as part of plans to make France greener. It prevented new crops being planted until a more permanent decision on the environmental policy is made.

The ban is due to come to an end at the start of February, by which time a decision will be announced.

The issue was discussed yesterday in the Senate. At a news conference Sarkozy announced he is prepared to resort to the safeguard clause if scientists raise serious doubts about GM crops.

The panel is expected to release its verdict later this week, before the government will make a final decision on the issue.

The only GM maize currently approved for cultivation in France is Monsanto's MON810, which was approved by the EU in 1998.

The maize contains a gene that defends the crop against the European corn borer, an insect pest that eats the stem, present primarily in southern and middle Europe but moving northwards.

Should the French decide to extend its GM ban, it will be following in the footsteps of Austria, which enforced a ban on the import and processing of MON810 and T25 maize in June 1999.

Austria used the same EU measures to implement the ban, expressing concern about the effects on non-target organisms and the development of resistance to toxins by target organisms.

The European Commission has been debating whether to force the country to lift its restrictions since 2005, as Austria has never produced the necessary scientific evidence to argue that GM crops do carry health risks.

In November 2005, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ordered Austria's ban be lifted following a case brought by leading GMO producers Argentina, Canada and the US under claims that their farmers were losing millions of euros annually because of the EU.

France could face similar condemnation for its actions from these countries, though the price to be paid for enforcing a ban is not yet known. The EU is due to decide on the situation in Austria by Friday January 11.

At the same time however, a more permanent GM ban would be met with much celebration from environmental groups within France.

The French anti-GM lobby is powerful. Farmer activist Jose Bove launched a hunger strike last week with 15 supporters, saying he would not eat again until the government imposes a year-long GM ban.

Last year he was convicted of ripping up GM crops when he stormed Monsanto's facilities in southern France with up to 75 other protestors to campaign against the French import and distribution of GM maize seed.

The cultivation of GM crops in Europe increased by 77 per cent in 2007, according to figures released by the biotech industry association EuropaBio.

Over 110,000 hectares of biotech crops were harvested in seven EU member states, compared to 62,000 hectares in 2006.

French GM crop cultivation experienced the greatest increase in Europe, quadrupling in size from 5,000 hectares in 1996 to over 21,000 hectares last year.

Genetic research also continues to thrive in France with institutes such as CIRAD carrying out some of the most advanced biotech research in Europe. Research into genetic modification was not affected by Sarkozy's ban.

One of the main concerns regarding GM crops is that pollination could cross-contaminate non-GM crops grown in the vicinity - and that ultimately the long-term health effects of GM on humans are not known.

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