France leans towards freeze on GM crops

Greenpeace activists paint a field of illegally grown GM corn to expose its location in France

Le Monde reports today that the government is preparing a freeze on commercial genetically modified crops, which currently account for less than one percent of farmland. The paper quotes Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo as saying the government wanted a freeze while working on a new law on GM crops, after ruling that it is impossible to stop the genes of GM crops spreading in the environment through pollination. Growing crops for research would be allowed to continue.

Cereal farmers have threatened to boycott the upcoming Grenelle forum on environment policy if the report is true and accused the government of being irresponsible. Greenpeace – which has lobbied actively against GM crops – welcomed the decision, saying that it showed the government had finally acknowledged that
it is impossible to protect non-GM fields from being pollinated by nearby GM fields.

GM crops are tightly controlled in France: with the exception of crops planted for research purposes, the only authorised GM crop is a single type of maize, called MON 810 and manufactured by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. Its licence expires this year. Some 22,000 hectares of GM maize were planted in France in 2007 — four times more than in 2006 — representing 0.75 percent of land under cultivation. Since 2004, about 10 GM strains have been cleared for the European Union market, mainly maize destined for human or animal consumption.

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