PARIS France formally suspended on Thursday the
commercial use of genetically modified (GMO) seeds in the
country until early February and ordered a biotech safety
The future of GMOs has long been the subject of heated
debate in France -- Europe's top grain producer -- and the
country's reluctance to use GMO crops compares starkly with the
United States, which is far more tolerant of the technology.
The French agriculture ministry said it had charged a newly
set-up committee with assessing the environmental and health
implications of using GMO seeds reliant on the MON 810
technology developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.
"As a result, there is a need to suspend the end-use of MON
810 maize seeds and related sales while awaiting the results of
this mission," it said in a circular.
Thursday's formal suspension until February 9 at the
latest, when parliament is slated to vote on a new biotech law,
only concerns MON 810 maize, as it is the sole GMO technology
permitted for cultivation in France and the European Union.
Stressing that the suspension was temporary, Monsanto
slammed France's action.
"While remembering its desire to respect French law,
Monsanto thinks that such a decision is a scandal bereft of
scientific foundation and incoherent with the environmental
benefits of this technology," the company said.
Seed makers also decried the move in a statement, echoing
Monsanto's complaint that there was no scientific
NO IMMEDIATE IMPACT
France's move came as Germany announced it had lifted a
temporary sales ban on MON 810 technology after Monsanto agreed
to additional monitoring of its cultivation in Germany.
France's suspension will have no immediate impact on
farmers using the pest resistant GMO seeds given that the
country's maize harvest is in its final stages and new sowings
will not take place until April, 2008.
Pro-GMO farmers have urged Paris to speed up plans to
create a higher GMO authority and pass a biotech law well
before April in the hope that the dispute can be settled and
MON 810 seeds can be bought well in time for the next sowings.
Those harboring fears over the potential impact of GMO
crops on peoples' health and the country's bio-diversity hope a
new authority will find ways to counter European Union
decisions on GMO and permanently ban their use in France.
(Additional reporting by Mathilde Cru; Editing by Sybille
de La Hamaide and Peter Blackburn)