French court orders GM crops transparency

Victory for NGOs as agriculture ministry given one month to provide list of GM trial locations

A French court yesterday sided with a coalition of environmental NGOs and ordered the agriculture ministry to release the locations of experimental trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops. France Nature Environnement (FNE), the coalition that mounted the legal challenge, said it was pleased but that the ruling was not a surprise since a 1992 French law on GMOs clearly states that such information should be publicly available.

FNE questioned the government's commitment to transparency, asking "what kind of credibility the government can expect to maintain if it refuses to provide information that its own law expressly states should be made public". The NGOs' battle to gain information about the location of GM trials began in 1999 when Friends of the Earth France submitted a request to the agriculture ministry and was denied. FNE, which represents about 3,000 individual NGOs, asked again last year, but the information it received did not include locations. Following this it launched court action.

Yesterday's ruling by Paris' administrative tribunal instructs the ministry to provide within one month a list of the communes in which GM crop trials took place in 2000. The ministry has the right to appeal. It has so far made no comment on the judgement.

Follow Up:
Administrative tribunal of Paris, tel: +33 1 44 59 44 00; French agriculture ministry, tel: +33 1 49 55 49 55; France Nature Environnement, tel: +33 2 38 62 44 48.

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