France is to use a new European opt-out scheme to ensure a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in the country remains in place. The European Union's largest grain grower and exporter has asked the European Commission for France to be excluded from some GM maize crop cultivation under the new scheme, the farm and environment ministries said in a joint statement.
As part of the opt-out process, France also passed legislation in the National Assembly that would enable it to oppose the cultivation of GM crops, even if approved at EU level, on the basis of certain criteria including environment and farm policy, land use, economic impact or civil order, the environment ministry added.
Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops have divided opinion in Europe. France had already banned cultivation of U.S. group Monsanto's GM maize, saying it had serious doubts that it is safe for the environment.
Monsanto says its maize (corn) is harmless to humans and wildlife.
The EU opt-out, agreed in March, allows individual countries to seek exclusion from any approval request for GM cultivation in the 28-member bloc or varieties already cleared as safe by the EU.
Monsanto's MON810 maize is the only GM crop grown in Europe, where it has been cultivated in Spain and Portugal for a decade, but other maize crops are in the process of being approved at EU level. One of them is an insect-resistant maize known as 1507. Its developers, DuPont Pioneer and Dow Chemical, have been waiting nearly 15 years for the EU executive to authorize its cultivation in the bloc.
The French request concerns nine GM maize strains. Producers also include Switzerland's Syngenta, a spokesman for the environment ministry said.
Germany also intends to make use of the new EU rules to stop the growing of GM crops, documents showed last month.
The European Commission is responsible for approvals, but under the new rules requests for opt-outs also have to be submitted to the company making the application.
Monsanto has said it will abide by requests from Latvia and Greece to be excluded from its application to grow a GM crop in the EU but accused them of ignoring science.