France bans Monsanto GM maize ahead of sowing season

PARIS, March 15 Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:11am EDT

PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - France's agriculture ministry on Saturday banned the sale, use and cultivation of Monsanto's MON 810 genetically modified maize, the only variety currently authorised in the European Union.

The French government, which maintains that GM crops present environmental risks, has been trying to institute a new ban on GM maize (corn) after its highest court has twice previously struck down similar measures.

The decision is timed to avert any sowing of GM maize by farmers before a draft law is debated on April 10 aimed at banning planting of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

"The sale, use and cultivation of varieties of maize seed from the line of genetically modified maize MON 810 (...) is banned in the country until the adoption, on the one hand, of a final decision, and secondly, of (EU) community action, " said a decree published on Saturday.

Annual sowing of maize in France gets under way in the second half of March.

The current Socialist government, like its conservative predecessor, has opposed the growing of GMO crops in light of public suspicion and widespread protests from environmentalists.

Longstanding differences between EU countries resurfaced in February when they failed to agree on whether or not to approve another GM maize variety, Pioneer 1507, developed by DuPont and Dow Chemical, leaving the way open to the EU Commission to clear it for cultivation.

France is trying to win support to overhaul the EU rules.