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Ban on GM maize will stay although report says no health danger

Article published on the 2009-02-12 Latest update 2009-02-12 16:46 TU

(Photo: 2003-2005 image*after)

(Photo: 2003-2005 image*after)

French Prime Minister François Fillon on Thursday said that a ban on genetically modified maize will remain in place, after a leaked official report declared that it is not a danger to public health. Fillon says that cultivation of US food giant Monsanto's MON810 strain was forbidden for environmental reasons, not health ones.

France will maintain the ban until the European Commission has made a ruling on the matter, Fillon said at a press conference with Commission chief José Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Thursday.

His remarks came after Le Figaro newspaper published findings of the official food watchdog, Afssa, which said that there was no evidence to support claims that MON810 poses a health risk.

An earlier report said evidence showed that the crop had an effect on insects, a species of earthworm and micro-organisms, but 12 of the 15 scientists who compiled it later declared that their findings had been misrepresented.

Environmental campaigners back up Fillon's argument.

The ban was "based on ecological reasons and on the problem of dissemination of pollen and of the toxin which is in the maize", says Greenpeace GM expert Arnaud Apothécaire.

There is a "concerted attempt" to influence the European Commission, which has called on France, Austria, Greece and Hungary to lift their safeguard measures against EU-approved GM crops, he told RFI.

Comment: Arnaud Apothécaire Greenpeace specialist on GM crops

12/02/2009 by Angela Diffley

In 2007, before the ban was introduced, 22,000 hectares were sown with MON810 in France, less than one per cent of the land used to grow corn.