France ends GM open field trials

1,000 GM poplars, the only genetically modified plant being grown in the country under field trial, will be destroyed

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Thursday 18 July 2013

France has decided to terminate the only experimental open field trials of a genetically modified (GM) plant. The country's National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) last week decided to destroy around 1,000 GM poplars. The institute’s GM poplars were the last-remaining experimental open field trials of GM trials in the country.

A press release issued by the institute said the decision was taken following failure to get expected government approvals. The experiment on GM poplars was initiated in 1995 in Saint-Cyr-en-Val, near Orléans (Loiret) at a research site measuring 1,300 square metre. The experiment aimed to improve the manufacturing of pulp; its focus was altered in 2007 to produce second generation biofuels such as bioethanol from poplar biomass.

The institute said: "Given the time of hearing of the application for renewal of the test, to the particular climatic constraints of the spring of 2013 and their influence on the experiment, and in the absence of the expected approval, INRA had to decide on Friday, July 12 to definitively destroy the genetically modified poplars.”

GM crops banned last year

Last year France had decided to impose a temporary ban on the cultivation of GM crops. The ban mainly targeted Monsanto’s MON810 maize, the only GMO allowed to be cultivated in the European Union (EU) that was introduced in March 2012, after a moratorium was annulled by France’s top court in November 2011.

Notably, Monsanto’s MON810 maize has been approved for cultivation all over the EU but various countries like Germany, Italy and France have imposed national bans. Apart from this, six member states of the EU have invoked a so-called “safeguard clause” following which member states may provisionally restrict or prohibit the use and/or sale of the GM product on its territory. These are Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Luxembourg.

It is against this backdrop that Monsanto appears to have decided to withdraw its applications for new GM crops in the EU. The company cited lack of commercial prospects for cultivation as a reason.

In a media statement, Monsanto’s president and managing director of Europe, Jose Manuel Madero, had said they will be withdrawing the approvals in the coming months. The decision includes five EU approvals to grow genetically modified maize, soybean and sugar beet. However, the company would not withdraw its application to renew the approval for insecticide resistant maize, MON810.


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