Amid debate over the safety and long-term effects of genetically-modified organisms, France takes a major step toward banning genetically-modified corn within its borders.
France took a major step toward banning the cultivation and harvesting of genetically-modified corn within its borders on Tuesday. New legislation passed by France’s lower house, the National Assembly, would ban all strains of genetically-modified corn and maize approved for growth in the European Union.
The bill was passed, with deputies citing environmental concerns. Prior to this, France had explicitly banned MON 810, a strain of maize developed by seed manufacturer Monsanto to be resistant to the European corn borer, a grain pest native to Europe.
The bill will now head to the Senate for consideration. The upper house, however, rejected similar legislation in February on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
The National Assembly will receive the final word on the ruling, should the Senate reject the bill. The ban would prohibit the adoption of both current and future strains approved for cultivation in the EU.
“It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of GMO and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties,” Jean Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, told the National Assembly.
Seed firms and French farmers have challenged such bans in court, striking down similar measures in 2011 and 2013, citing insufficient justification for such a ban.
The fight to ban GMOs in France has been a cantankerous one. France adopted the EU legislation on growing GMOs in 2007 after a six-year delay in implementing the legislation, which led to a 10 million euro fine from the European Court of Justice. In 2008, the French government — using the safeguard ban — banned the cultivation of MON 810 after a leading senator stated that he had “serious doubts” about the safety of the product. The Court of Justice ruled that the ban on MON 810 was illegal.
Germany also currently bans MON 810. According to research on Monsanto’s data on MON 810 by French scientist Giles-Eric Seralini, the seed toxin has been found to cause liver, kidney and heart damage in rats. The European Food Safety Authority, however, found the damage within the normal range and found the statistical methods used in Seralini’s review inappropriate.
GMOs are organisms whose genetic material has been altered or mutated by genetic engineering techniques toward cultivating specific traits, such as better crop yields or greater resistance to pests.
While the long-term effects of genetically-modified foods are debatable, many opponents of GMOs argue that it is impossible to know with certainty the net result of altering an organism’s DNA. Many scientists are convinced that genetically-modified crops are no more dangerous than ordinary crops, but questions such as if pollens from pest-resistant crops are killing honeybees, if GMO crops mutate after generations of cross-breeding, and if consumers have the right to know they are eating GMOs, fuel the debate over the safety of artificially modifying a living being.
Currently, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria and Luxembourg have bans on GMOs in the EU. Poland’s attempt to issue a ban was blocked by the European Commission.