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French ban on biotech Monsanto corn ruled illegal

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France's government vowed to investigate ways to maintain a ban on planting biotech Monsanto corn seed despite the curbs being ruled illegal - by both the country's own and European judges.

EuropaBio, the European biotech industry group, urged French leaders to decide "whether they want to regain their position as a leader of agricultural innovation… or support an anti-science agenda that weakens Europe's competitiveness" after a judgment on Monday from Paris's highest court.

The Conseil d'Etat backed a decision by the European Court of Justice two months ago that France's farm ministry "could not justify its authority" in banning the planting of a Monsanto genetically modified corn variety, MON810.

The variety is one of only two biotech crops cleared for sowing by the European Union.

The ministry, while claiming the corn variety posed a "serious risk", had failed "to give proof of the existence of a particularly high level of risk for the health and the environment", the Conseil added.

Monsanto reaction

However, Bruno Le Maire, agriculture minister in France, where public opinion against biotech crops is particularly vehement, said that the government "will examine all ways to keep the ban on genetically modified maize despite the… decision".

US-based Monsanto, while welcoming the ruling, signalled caution over the implications, saying it was talking over "what might be possible in the future".

"We need a stable political environment to work with customers," a company spokesman told Agrimoney.com.

Some other EU nations, including Austria, Germany and Hungary, have similar bans against genetically modified corn.

However, France's ban was considered particularly important given that the country is the top EU corn grower, and cultivated 20,000 hectares of genetically modified maize before the ban was imposed in 2008.

'Loud and clear'

The dispute over genetically modified food is so entrenched that the European Commission has proposed delegating powers for deciding on biotech cultivation back to member states, although that idea has yet to be agreed.

Indeed, it has gained some opposition, for fear of the precedent it might it set.

EuropaBio green biotechnology head Carel de Machie Sarvaas said the rulings by the ECJ and the Conseil "send one message loud and clear - bans of GM crops cannot be based on political dogma.

"As both judgments state, no ban on planting GM crops can be declared without valid scientific evidence, something that France and other European countries have not produced."

By Agrimoney.com

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