Monsanto’s MON810 genetically modified maize is facing new restrictions in France after leaders have agreed to place a temporary ban on the cultivation of the maize as a crop item. Prime Minister Francois Fillon released a statement saying, “Because of the approach of sowing, the minister of Agriculture decided today to take a conservative measure to temporarily ban MON810 maize on national land in order to protect the environment.” France commented that the action was necessary to act conservatively before the spring sowings began.
Banning GMO crops
The government intended to publish the decree banning the GMO maize crops in time to prevent the crop from being used in the maize sowings just starting for the year in France. Monsanto countered that MON810 maize is perfectly safe, but has agreed not to sell the GMO maize in France for 2012 and beyond. France is the biggest grain grower in the European Union.
A moratorium against the GMO maize from Monsanto was in effect in the country previously, but that ban was annulled by France’s highest court on the basis that it was not sufficiently justified. The government indicated that it was determined to keep the ban on MON810 maize in place when the court overturned the previous one, saying that it planned to “examine all ways” to maintain the ban. To revive the ban that had been in place since 2008, the country invoked a safeguard clause that allowed the ban to be restored.
Significant Risks for the Environment
France has also filed a request with the European Union to have the authorization to sow the maize in the European Union suspended. The request cites “significant risks for the environment,” as apparently discovered in recent scientific studies and dna diagnostics, as the basis for the request. Monsanto’s MON810 genetically modified maize is the only GMO crop authorized for cultivation in the European Union.
Public opinion in France is fiercely opposed to the use of genetically modified organisms, especially as part of the food system. About 52% of French residents believe that foods that have been genetically modified could be harmful for human consumption and risky to human health. 66% of the polled people in France stated that they had limited or non-existent knowledge about genetically modified organisms.
Activists against the use of GMO products put pressure on the government to act quickly before spring sowings were underway. The activists were concerned that farmers would sow the maize, sometimes known as a “Frankenstein food,” in their fields, harming the environment. A year before the previous ban was put into place, some farmers reported having their fields ransacked and damaged by activists protesting against the use of GMO products.
Image Credit: raman..exploring myself..
Felicity Parsons is a writer for GTLDNA, a genetic dna testing company. Besides writing about modified foods, Felicity also writes about the benefits of growing organic foods.