PARIS France risks losing its seat among top
food producers if it rejects genetically modified (GMO) crops
altogether in an upcoming law on biotech organisms, French
farmers and producers said on Wednesday.
Orama, the lobby gathering French grain and oilseed
growers, joined by seedmakers and several politicians, warned
against "peddlers of fear" which fight against the use of GMO
at a time when most other big producers adopt the technology.
The call is part of a wide government-led debate on the
future of France's environment policy during which the fate of
GMOs in the country has been a subject of heated discussions.
France and many other European countries, pressured by
reluctant consumers, has long opposed a widespread use of GMO
crops, contrary to other big producers such as the United
States which has a far higher take-up of GMO technology.
"Today there are 102 million hectares sown with GMO seeds
around the world. What we fear is that if France rejects GMOs
we will be left behind and be dependent on other countries
technology," said Orama's president Philippe Pinta.
"If we discourage research we doom our future," he added.
French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said last
month that the government wanted to continue allowing
laboratory research on GMOs but envisaged to ban both the sale
and cultivation of GMO crops.
The idea was welcomed by green groups, opposed to the
technology they say could prove dangerous to human health, but
it was widely criticized by farmers who say France needs to
keep up research, which also implies field tests.
"If we want to fight against the U.S. domination we have to
give ourselves the means to do so," said Jean-Yves Le Deaut,
head of a parliamentary commission on GMOs.
Under pressure from skepticism among ordinary consumers
towards biotech foods -- polls show that between 75 and 80
percent are opposed to GMOs -- France has only granted approval
for one type of GMO crop, produced by U.S. biotech giant
Monsanto, to be cultivated for commercial purposes.
So far, just 22,000 hectares -- 1.5 percent of France's
cultivated land -- have been sown with GMO maize this year.
Farmers also stress a contradiction between banning
production and/or research on biotech crops and allowing the
import of food products that contain GMOs.
"The French will end up being the laughing stock because
they'll be eating what they refuse allowing their farmers to
grow," said Christian Pees, president of France's seedmakers