A French high court has decided to ban GM crops, invoking a special safeguard clause. A decision which is unlikely to threaten world biotech leader and US giant Monsanto.
A group of French farmers on 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 maize producers' association backed by the US agribusiness giant Monsanto, 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 GM crop grown in France.
The French government in February officially banned the GM 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 that 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 maize that gives an EU member state authority to ban a GM crop provided it has scientific evidence to back this decision.
France this month proposed replacing the EU's system for authorising GM crops with tougher standards which take into account a wide range of environmental and safety factors.
Last year, 22,000 hectares (55,000 acres) were sown with the product -- less than one percent of the sown acreage for corn in France
Date created : 2008-03-20