French government ‘gives in’ to GM lobby despite Environment Minister’s request
Despite its opposition to GMOs, the French government decided not to destroy a vast GM-contaminated maize crop, disregarding the wishes of its own Environment Minister, Dominique Voynet.
Voynet, had called for the destruction of the 4,500 hectare crop, which was discovered to have quantities of the GM strain, BT11- outlawed for planting in France.
However she admitted defeat at a weekend meeting of European environment ministers, only days after calling for all contaminated crops to be uprooted, and weeks after the destruction of a rapeseed crop on similar grounds.
Calling the government’s decision “prudent on a juridical basis,” Voynet added, “It is important to me to guarantee both the farmer’s freedom of choice of whether, or not, to sow GMOs, and the consumer’s freedom of choice of whether or not to buy products which contain them.”
However, the spokesperson of Voynet’s Green Party, Noel Mamere, was more vocal in his condemnation of the government’s decision. “She (Voynet) has not been followed by a government which has preferred to give in to private interests rather than safeguard public interests.”
The Secretary of State for Consumer Affairs, Marylise Lebranchu, with whom the decision of whether or not to destroy the crop ultimately rested, justified her action in a statement. “The scientific evaluations which are available at present conclude that the BT11 strain presents no known risks to the environment or to health.”
She said that although the strain was forbidden from being planted in the EU, it could be consumed, especially as its presence was “very weak, in the order of one per thousand.”
Lebranchu ordered stocks of similarly contaminated seeds to be destroyed and the offending crop to be labelled.
The 4,500 hectare maize crop in the south-west of France originated from supposedly GM-free seeds from the U.S.company, Golden Harvest. They announced the discovery of the contamination of the French crop in late June and stated that it was accidental.
Lebranchu attempted to strengthen her government’s position on GMOs by calling for stronger import controls on seeds and further checks to be conducted before they are sold.
“If there is any doubt about the risk to health or the environment, the crop will be destroyed,”
she added, citing five percent as the maximum acceptable level of contamination.