French farmers challenge ban on GM maize

Maize_copyright Monsanto.jpg

French maize growers and seed companies have appealed a ban on the cultivation of a strain of genetically modified maize to the country's highest court, saying it was unjustified and economically harmful for farmers.

France placed a temporary ban on the growth of Monsanto's MON810 GMO maize earlier this month after a previous moratorium was annulled by the country's top court in November on the basis that it was not sufficiently justified.

"This restriction does not rely on any serious scientific element, and maize producers, hit by [insects], sustain real financial damage," French growers group AGPM, French seed firms group UFS and the maize and sorghum producers federation FNPSMS said in a joint statement yesterday (29 March).

EU countries are able to restrict genetically modified crop cultivation under strict conditions asauthorisation licences are valid across the 27-country bloc, in accordance with the principles of the EU's single market.

Several member states have repeatedly invoked an EU safeguard clause enabling them to suspend the marketing or growth on their territory of GM crops that enjoy EU-wide authorisation, but the European Commission has never substantiated their applications and has always ordered the lifting of national bans.

France asked the European Commission in February to suspend authorization to sow the insect-resistant maize, the only GMO crop allowed for cultivation in the European Union.

The French government's request to the EU Commission was based on "significant risks for the environment" shown in recent scientific studies, it said.

Global agribusiness company Monsanto said its GMO maize is perfectly safe.

French and European farmers have expressed concerns about the consequences of EU consumers' hostility to GMOs, saying it is likely to make them fall behind in the competitive world grain market.

The safety assessments performed by the European Food Safety Authority have come under criticism over the years. The EU executive has tried to introduce practical changes to the EFSA'sGMO-approval process. 

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