France to restore GMO maize ban within days: ministry

PARIS Tue Mar 6, 2012 12:34pm EST

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PARIS (Reuters) - France will reinstate a ban on the cultivation of Monsanto's MON810 maize (corn) in the next few days, in time to prevent the genetically modified grain being sown this year, an official at the farm ministry said on Tuesday.

Paris banned MON810 maize in 2008, citing environmental risks. The decision was overturned by the country's highest court in November on the basis that it was not sufficiently justified, leading the government to say it would look at all ways to maintain the freeze.

France, which will face a presidential election next month and where public opinion is fiercely opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMO), asked the European Commission last month to suspend the authorization to sow the maize, the only GMO crop allowed for cultivation in the European Union.

The ministry will publish a safety clause banning the growing of MON810 maize based on evidence sent to the EU executive and on any new evidence coming out of a public consultation it launched after sending its request to Brussels, the official said.

"A safety clause will be taken in the coming days on the basis of what was given to the Commission and the return of the public consultation," the official told Reuters.

The source declined to say whether comments submitted during the consultation, which closes on Tuesday evening, contained new evidence the ministry could use to back its upcoming decision to ban cultivation of the insect-resistant MON810 maize.

The French government's request to the EU Commission was based on "significant risks for the environment" shown in recent scientific studies, mainly one by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in December on "bt11" GMO maize which said its conclusions also apply in some respects to the MON810.

Global seeds giant Monsanto, which says its GMO maize is perfectly safe, said in January it would not sell MON810 in France in 2012 and beyond.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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