(Beyond Pesticides, April 24, 2014) France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill last week banning the cultivation of all strains of genetically engineered (GE) corn within its borders, even those strains that might not yet be approved within the European Union (EU). The law follows a decree adopted last month, which targeted the only GE crop permitted for cultivation in the EU””Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 corn. Back in the U.S., Vermont became the first state to pass a bill requiring the labeling of food containing GE ingredients (You can read the House bill as it was introduced here and the Senate amendments to this bill here). The bill, which the Governor said he will sign, passed by large majorities in both houses of the legislature and does not contain a trigger provision similar to laws adopted in Connecticut and Maine –with a requirement that similar action is taken in contiguous states before the law goes into effect.
The action in France is not the first time it has closed the door on MON810, even in the face of its highest court’s rulings that similar bans did not have sufficient justification. Yet, undaunted by these defeats the French General Assembly went even further than these past actions and extended the ban to all GE corn crops through more permanent legislation.
Jean-Marie Le Guen, National Assembly delegate, explained, “It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of [GE] and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties.”
The bold move in the name of environmental protection must still clear some significant legislative and legal hurdles. The upper house of France’ parliament, the Senate, has yet to vote on the bill and most likely will reject the law as it has done in the past. Unlike the U.S. legislative system, however, this does not mean absolute defeat, and according to some resources, the National Assembly will still have the final say.
Whether or not that final say survives yet another legal challenge from industry and pro-GE crop farmers, is a separate issue. France must also continue its battle at the EU level to restructure EU rules concerning GE cultivation approvals and those countries who oppose such approvals.
France Is Right to Be Concerned
Insecticide-resistant corn, like MON810, poses serious threats to both the environment and human health. Researchers have found numerous instances of insect resistance, a difficult to contain environmental and agricultural impact often leading to overall increases in insecticide sales and emergency uses of even more dangerous pesticides. Animal studies have also produced evidence of insecticide-incorporated corn causing increased chances of infertility. Couple these risks with the fact that little evidence of the supposed economic benefits that proponents of GE crops laud has been substantiated and France’s actions seem more than sufficient.
GE Efforts Here at Home
While efforts to curb GE crop cultivation in the U.S. through all-out bans are few and far between, many states have attempted to pass GE labeling laws. Few have been successful and those that have passed, have included trigger provisions that prevent them going into effect””until yesterday. A Vermont bill requiring the labeling of GE foods passed the Vermont House of Representatives by a 114-30 vote, making it the first GE labeling bill to clear both houses of the state legislature and head to the governor for a likely signature. Much like France, Vermont faces almost certain legal challenges from the GE-industry, as well as federal-level preemptive legislation.
Beyond Pesticides continues to support the efforts of all farmers, counties, states, and countries to protect themselves against the unwanted invasion of GE crops and the risks that they bring to the environment and health. Please visit our Genetic Engineering webpage to learn more about the issues surrounding GE crops both at home and abroad.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.