French GM ban official / Poland hampers GMO planting (9/2/2008)

1.French ban on strain of GM corn becomes official
2.Poland to hamper GMO planting despite lifting despite lifting ban
3.EU, US seek arbitration in biotech crops row
1.French ban on strain of GM corn becomes official
AFP, February 9 2008

[picture caption: An anti-genetically modified protest in southern France]

PARIS (AFP) - France officially imposed Saturday a ban on a strain of genetically modified (GM) corn produced by the US agribusiness giant Monsanto, with the publication of an agriculture ministry order in the state's official journal.

'The growing of corn seeds ... derived from genetically modified corn strain MON810 is prohibited on [French] territory,' read the order signed by Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier.

Monsanto's 810 maize had been the only GM crop grown in France, but the French government last month began moving to ban its further use after a watchdog authority said it had 'serious doubts' about the product in a report that has been controversial even among the scientists who put it together.

The agriculture ministry order said the ban would remain in force until a decision was taken whether to renew the authorisation for the GM strain to be sold on the French market.

French corn farmers have already said the planned to challenge the ban in court.

With the law requiring a hearing within three weeks, corn producers could still plant the variety of GM corn this spring if France's highest administrative court supports their appeal, said Luc Esprit, director of the Association General of Corn Producers.

The association estimates that without a ban some 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of the GM corn would be planted this year, up from 22,000 hectares in 2007.

It estimates the ban would cause farmers losses of some 10 million euros (15 million dollars).

France last month invoked an EU safeguard procedure to temporarily bar Monsanto's 810 maize.

It followed a report by France's Provisional High Authority on GM Organisms that said it had 'serious doubts' as to the safety of MON810.

It pointed to what it described as 'a certain number of new scientific facts relating to a negative impact on flora and fauna.'

Chairman Jean-Francois Le Grand, who also holds a seat in the Senate, said evidence had emerged that Mon 810 had an effect on insects, a species of earthworm and micro-organisms.

There was also concern that wind-borne pollen from MON810 could travel much further than previously thought -- perhaps as much as hundreds of miles (kilometres), said Le Grand.

The government action also followed French anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove -- who has been convicted of ripping up GM crops in southern France -- launching a hunger strike to press for a year-long ban on genetically modified crops
2.Poland to hamper GMO planting despite lifting despite lifting ban
By Gabriela Baczynska
Reuters, February 8 2008

MOSCOW, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Poland will seek to make planting of genetically modified seeds nearly impossible for local farmers even though it plans to lift an official ban to comply with EU law, the agriculture minister told Reuters on Friday.

European Union regulators launched legal action against Poland last month over plans that amounted to a national GMO ban by its biggest ex-communist member. Lawyers for the European Commission said it had no scientific justification.

'We will delay the farming of genetically modified animal feed as much as possible because there is no social acceptance for it,' Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki told Reuters during a Moscow visit with the Polish prime minister.

'According to EU law we cannot forbid it, but we can make it as difficult as possible, setting additional requirements, such as obtaining permission by neighbours,' he said.

Poland's law on seeds and plant protection, adopted in April 2006, introduced a total ban of trade in GMO seeds varieties on Polish territory.

The Commission takes the view that if a region wants to ban GMO crops or products, such restrictions must be scientifically justified and crop-specific to comply with EU law.

The proposed ban must not be politically motivated, or a blanket GMO restriction that might distort the EU's single trading market.

Since the use and trade of GMO seeds was harmonised across EU member countries, the Commission had told Poland -- in a first letter sent in October 2006 and another sent in June 2007 -- that its GMO ban broke EU law, the statement said.
(Writing by Chris Borowski; editing by Michael Roddy)
3.EU, US seek arbitration in biotech crops row
REUTERS, Feb 8 2008

GENEVA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The European Union and United States said on Friday they were seeking arbitration at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in their long-running row over the EU's ban on biotech crops.

But the two trading powers told the WTO's dispute settlement body they intended to suspend the request for arbitration to give themselves more time to work out a solution, trade officials said.

Crops engineered to resist pests and tolerate pesticides while improving yields are increasingly popular with farmers in rich and poor countries.

But many EU consumers, keen on organic produce, are wary of eating 'Frankenfoods', while advocacy groups say genetically modified (GMO) crops threaten biodiversity.

The WTO has ordered Brussels to end the ban on GMO crops, and Washington has asserted its right to retaliate if the EU fails to do so by seeking compensation equal to the lost value of exports and licensing fees.

But the EU says this compensation is out of line with WTO rules, hence the need for arbitration.

Washington says its main interest is to open up EU markets to biotech crops rather than seeking compensation by suspending benefits enjoyed by the EU in U.S. markets under WTO rules.

Brussels has found it hard to implement the WTO ruling in the dispute, which also pits it against Argentina and Canada, because the 27 EU member states operate their own bans.

Friday's manoeuverings at the WTO aimed to get around inconsistencies in WTO dispute rules, which set conflicting timetables for seeking compensation when members fail to comply with rulings, and determining whether they have done so.

Austria continues to ban MON 810 maize made by U.S. biotech company Monsanto (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and T25 maize developed by German drugs and chemicals group Bayer (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research). The EU's biggest food producer France imposed a temporary ban last month on MON 810.

The case will be closely watched by other biotech companies such as U.S. chemicals majors Du Pont (DD.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Dow Chemical (DOW.N: Quote, Profile, Research), and Switzerland's Syngenta (SYNN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research), the world's biggest agrochemicals company. (Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Catherine Evans)


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