November 29, 2011
French court nullifies ban on growing GM corn
Due to insufficient justification, France's ban on growing a strain of genetically modified corn developed by Monsanto has been annulled by France's highest court on Monday (Nov 28).
The decision follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in early September saying France had based its decision to impose a moratorium on the growing of Monsanto's insect-resistant MON810 corn on the wrong EU legislation.
Suspension or banning measures ought to be taken at EU level unless a member state can demonstrate a potentially serious risk to human or animal health or the environment, the courts said.
"Drawing on the consequences of the ECJ's ruling, the State Council finds that the agriculture ministry could not justify its authority to issue the decrees, failing to give proof of the existence of a particularly high level of risk for the health and the environment," the highest French court said.
The French agriculture ministry declined to comment.
Monsanto told the news of the court decision was "welcome support for a science and evidence based approach to GM crop policy in the EU".
Genetically modified crops are widely used in countries such as the US and Brazil.
But France, the EU's largest grain producer whose citizens are among the staunchest biotech sceptics, banned growing of such crops in 2008 after protests by local green groups, citing a "serious risk to the environment."
In September, in reaction to the European court of Justice's ruling, France had said its embargo on MON810 corn was still valid and that it would restart a procedure if needed.
Greenpeace said action was needed before the next sowings.
"The State Council decision annuls de facto France's moratorium on MON810 corn cultivation: if the government does not act, by imposing a new ban, we risk to see GMO reappear in our fields as soon as next spring," Greenpeace France head Sylvain Tardy said.
Six other EU countries -- Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg -- have similar safeguard clauses against GM corn in place.
Having tried and failed to force several EU countries to lift their cultivation bans, last year the Commission proposed letting member states decide themselves whether to grow or ban GMO crop cultivation.
Under EU law, only two GMO varieties are approved for cultivation.