(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2008) The sowing of gene-altered corn, called MON810, in France this spring will not be allowed until further scientific evidence on its safety is reviewed. This ruling came after growers argued that they faced serious economic harm if the ban on genetically modified crops was not immediately released before the start of the spring planting season. The French Conseil d’État last week upheld the ban instituted February 7 of this year, after concerns were raised by French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, on the heath and environmental benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops.
In the ruling, presiding Judge Jean-Marie Delarue pointed out that the safety of the product needs further study. The ban would therefore be upheld until a ruling could be made on the scientific underpinning. Hearings are expected to be held in the coming months. The French Ministry of Agriculture initially imposed the ban on GM products, stating that it should remain in place until European authorities completed a review of the product. Review is required every ten years.
Efforts to overturn the ban were led by the General Association of Maize Growers in France and several biotechnology companies, including Monsanto, which engineered MON810, and Pioneer, a unit of the chemical company Dupont.
“We are disappointed,” said Stéphanie Piécourt, a spokeswoman for Monsanto in France, adding that corn farmers “will not be able to benefit from the economic, agricultural and environmental advantages that this product offers.” Farmers in support of the crop also argued that MON810 could help reduce the use of pesticides and lower costs, which would benefit consumers at a time of rising food prices.
However, environmentalists, scientists and farmers opposed to GM crops have argued that the corn, which confers resistance to pests, could pollute other crops and pose a threat to the environment and human health. The debate over the use of GM crops in Europe has been ongoing for at least a decade. Despite this victory, there are signs that some governments and policymakers are prepared to ease longstanding opposition to the cultivation of these crops. Some expect that MON810 will be cultivated this year in at least seven European Union countries, including Spain and Germany. MON810, under the brand name YieldGard, has been used in the United States for more than a decade. Nevertheless, countries like France are ever wary of so-called “Frankenstein foods.”
Recent studies have shown that GM crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use, due to increased insect resistance, and that despite industry arguments and propaganda, these crops have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger or poverty. GM crops have also been found to harm aquatic ecosystems and contaminate organic and non-GM crops (See Jan 24, 2008 Daily News on a California bill to protect farmers from GM contamination). For more information, visit our page on GM crops.
Source: The New York Times