France blasts GM crop approvals by EU agency

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe’s food safety agency has used partial evidence to approve genetically modified crops, including a GM potato developed by BASF, and should overhaul its methods, a French environment minister said.

France has previously invoked environmental risks to suspend cultivation of Monsanto’s MON 810 maize, which was the only GM crop approved for growing in the European Union prior to this week’s approval of BASF’s Amflora potato.

Chantal Jouanno, a junior minister in the French government, said the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), whose opinions are used by the EU’s executive, had ignored the environmental effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“We do not recognize their expertise because we consider that their opinions are incomplete,” she told French daily Le Parisien in an interview published on Friday.

“They are only interested in the sanitary consequences of GMOs, without taking into account their long-term environmental impact,” she said, citing potential contamination of soil and adverse effects on other species.

France has asked a national biotechnology committee, the HCB, to give its opinion on the Amflora potato, after already consulting the body last year on MON 810 maize after taking issue with a favorable opinion from EFSA on renewing the European license for growing the crop.

To resolve longstanding divisions between member countries over GM crop approvals, the European Commission also said this week it may propose letting each country decide whether to authorize the cultivation of GM crops on its soil.

France’s farm minister told Reuters last month he was opposed to any national decision-making on GM crops, calling for harmonized EU rules.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by James Jukwey