French GM maize ruling opens government split

Agriculture, environment, ministries issue contrasting reactions to council of state decision

Wednesday's backing for three varieties of genetically modified (GM) maize by France's highest administrative court has exposed divisions in the coalition government over the issue. The socialist-run agriculture ministry welcomed the ruling last night, but Green environment minister Dominique Voynet broke ranks and called for the "immediate suspension of all GM seed authorisations".

In its statement, the agriculture ministry said the court ruling confirmed that the government had been right to approve marketing of three maize varieties containing the "Novartis event 176" modification in 1998. It added that the results of scientific research carried out since then would be reviewed.

But Ms Voynet said that marketing and use of the three varieties in question be suspended, and called on the government to support officially the EU's quasi moratorium on the authorisation of any new GM varieties (ENDS Daily 24 June 1999). Conciliation talks aimed at finalising new rules for approving agricultural GMOs that could end the blockage are currently underway, with Ms Voynet representing the interests of EU environment ministers (ENDS Daily 10 November).

Follow Up:
French agriculture ministry, tel: +33 1 49 55 49 55, and press release; French environment ministry, tel: +33 1 42 19 20 21, and press release.

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