France does a U-turn on GM crop contamination

Government decision not to pull up GM-contaminated maize leaves Voynet fuming

The French government has decided not to order the destruction of 4,500 hectares of GM-contaminated maize, arguing that the low level of contamination makes invocation of the precautionary principle unnecessary. The announcement has drawn fire from the government's minority partner, the Greens.

Environment minister and Green party member Dominique Voynet spoke out against the decision and said she wanted the government to order destruction, as it did in the spring when 600 hectares of GM-contaminated rapeseed were discovered (ENDS Daily 19 May). Ms Voynet said that the ruling, which was announced by a junior industry minister, called into question whether she and other Green elected officials held any real power in government.

Minister for small businesses and commerce Marylise Lebranchu, chose Friday, France's national day and a public holiday, to announce that destruction of the contaminated maize would not be required. A decision had been due to be announced by prime minister Lionel Jospin on 7 July, but was postponed.

Defending the government's position in the face of accusations that it contradicted France's position over the GM-contaminated rapeseed, Ms Lebranchu said that the level of contamination was very low - about 0.2% - and that two of the three GM varieties accidentally planted were authorised in the EU. The third variety is authorised for importation but not for commercial growing.

France's association of maize producers (AGPM) welcomed the government's decision. It had threatened to take the government to court if crop destruction was ordered. France is Europe's largest grower of maize, with 1.7 million hectares planted in 1999.

Follow Up:
French industry ministry - secretariat for commerce, tel: +33 1 43 19 24 24, and GMO information page; AGPM, tel: +33 1 47 23 48 32.

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