Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

France adds GM maize to the national seed list

Peter Crosskey

French farm minister Bruno Le Maire has added a list of 38 genetically modified (GM) maize varieties to France's national plant catalogue, authorising them for sale in France and, by extension, across the EU.

No GM maize types are currently authorised for cultivation in France, after the country invoked a safeguard clause in early 2008. The move came in response to an injunction issued against the ministry by the Conseil d'Etat, France's constitutional council. It followed an administrative challenge by seed producers after their GM products spent years languishing in legal limbo. Le Maire's decree of July 20 bears a strong resemblance to a proposal published by the European Commission on July 15 that, in its current form, would require member states to authorise the sale of GM seeds and products regardless of national policies on GM crops.

Philippe Gracien, director of the French national seed producers' organisation GNIS, dismissed the timing as a coincidence brought about by his members' injunction through the Conseil d'Etat. However, he recently claimed that France had "one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake" when it came to dealing with GM crops.

Gracien is critical of the French government for obstructing GM crop development, even if he conceded that genetic engineering was not always an appropriate solution.

The French agriculture ministry assured the Irish Independent that, by itself, the recent decree changed nothing in respect of GM crops, which remain off limits for cultivation.

The decree was described as a piece of administrative housekeeping to remedy the oversights of past years. It does, however, include two T25 maize varieties which fall outside the scope of the safeguard clause invoked for MON 810 derived varieties. T25 varieties are coupled with the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, which, although authorised for certain uses in France and elsewhere, is not allowed for maize crops. The French family farmers' body the Confédération Paysanne was one of the first organisations to publicise the arrival of genetically modified maize on the national catalogue.

National secretary Michel David warned that only admin barriers stood in the way of multiplier plantings of T25 varieties starting next season without glufosinate ammonium treatments.

He accused the farm ministry of "...bending over backwards to meet the wishes of the seed industry and quietly killing off the moratorium on GM crops in the summer ceasefire".

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Irish Independent