Monsanto Loses Appeal of
French Ban on Modified Corn
HEATHER SMITH / St. Louis Post-Dispatch 20mar2008
[More on Monsanto]
PARIS — Monsanto Co. and French farmers lost a bid to have France's highest court overturn a ban on genetically modified corn.
The Conseil d'Etat in Paris Wednesday ruled that France's Agriculture Ministry had the right to suspend cultivation of an insect-resistant corn seed known in Europe as MON810.
French farmers planted about 54,360 acres using the altered corn seed last year, according to AGPM, a French corn-growers association. Farmers had planned to expand plantings more than fourfold in 2008, AGPM President Christophe Terrain said at a March 17 hearing on the matter. That would move France ahead of Spain to make it the largest European grower of Monsanto's modified corn, according to Jonathan Ramsay, a spokesman for Creve Coeur-based Monsanto.
"This ban is an illegal ban because it isn't based on science," Ramsay said.
Wednesday's decision was on a preliminary request to stall the ban until a hearing on the scientific issues related to the study, the AGPM's lawyer, Louis Bore, said. That case will be reviewed by a panel of judges at the Conseil d'Etat later this year..
The modified corn plant that was banned produces Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a naturally occurring substance that kills insects when they eat it.
The seed, sold in the U.S. since 1997 under the brand name YieldGard Corn Borer, was planted globally on 50.5 million acres last year, including 42.4 million acres in the United States, according to Monsanto.
French Court Says Ban on
Gene-Altered Corn Seed
Will Remain, Pending Study
JAMES KANTER / New York Times 20mar2008
PARIS — Opponents of gene-altered crops won a victory in France on Wednesday when the top court upheld, at least for the time being, a ban on a corn variety produced by the American seed company Monsanto.
Growers had argued that the economic harm they faced was serious enough for the month-old ban to be lifted immediately, before the start of the spring planting season.
Proponents also said that allowing plantings of the gene-altered seed, called MON810, could benefit consumers at a time of rising food prices.
But the Conseil d’État upheld the ban until it could rule on its scientific underpinning. Hearings are expected to be held in coming months.
In his ruling, Judge Jean-Marie Delarue pointed out that a report issued in January by a committee of French specialists had called for more studies on the product’s safety.
The decision was a victory for environmentalists and for farmers opposed to gene-modification technology. They had warned that the corn, which confers resistance to pests, could pollute other crops and pose a threat to the environment and human health.
Other farmers, backed by the biotechnology industry, argue the products could help lower costs and reduce use of pesticides.
“We are disappointed,” said Stéphanie Piécourt, a spokeswoman for Monsanto in France, adding that corn farmers “will not be able to benefit from the economic, agricultural and environmental advantages that this product offers.”
The French agriculture ministry imposed the ban on Feb. 7, saying it should remain in place until a review of the product — required every 10 years — was completed by European authorities.
Efforts to overturn the ban were led by the General Association of Maize Growers in France and several biotechnology companies, including Monsanto and Pioneer, a unit of the chemical company DuPont.
Cédric Poeydomenge, a spokesman for the maize growers’ association, said farmers had hoped to plant 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) using the pest-resistant corn.
He said farmers would plant nonmodified corn this year, but would face 10 million euros in insecticide costs and potential losses from pests.
Battles over gene-altered crops have been fought across Europe for more than a decade, but there now are signs that some governments and policy makers are prepared to ease longstanding opposition.
Nathalie Moll of Europabio, an industry association in Brussels, said she expected MON810 to be cultivated this year in at least seven European Union countries, including Spain and Germany. MON810, under the brand name YieldGard, has been used in the United States for more than a decade.
But some governments, including those in Austria and France, are extremely wary of softening their stance on genetic modification because of continuing distrust among those citizens who consider gene-altered products to be “Frankenstein” foods.
Deranged French Farmers
Lose Bid To Overturn GMO Corn Ban
Agence France-Presse 19mar2008
PARIS —A group of French farmers Wednesday lost a bid to overturn a government ban on a strain of genetically-modified corn, a month after it came into force.
France's highest administrative body, the state council, rejected the challenge from nine plaintiffs including a corn producers' association backed by U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. (MON), which produces the strain.
"The judge has rejected the complaint," said a spokeswoman for the state council. "There are no serious doubts as to the legality of the decisions" to ban the use of MON810 strain of corn, the only GMO crop grown in France.
The French government in February officially banned the GMO crop after a watchdog authority said it had "serious doubts" about the product in a report that has been controversial even among the scientists who put it together.
France's Provisional High Authority on GM Organisms pointed to what it described as "a certain number of new scientific facts relating to a negative impact on flora and fauna."
In its ruling, the state council said the government was right to resort to the ban as a precautionary measure, given concerns about the possible public health effects.
Reacting to the decision, a Monsanto spokesman said he was disappointed but expressed hope the company's arguments will prevail when the state council issues a final ruling in the case at a later date.
France invoked a European Union safeguard clause to bar the corn that gives an E.U. member state authority to ban a GMO crop provided it has scientific evidence to back this decision.
France this month proposed replacing the E.U.'s system for authorizing GMO crops with tougher standards which take into account a wide range of environmental and safety factors.
Last year, 22,000 hectares were sown with the product - less than one per cent of the sown acreage for corn in France.