French parliament adopts contested GM crops bill
Paris (AFP) May 22, 2008
The French parliament on Thursday adopted a controversial bill on genetically-modified (GM) crops that had raised hackles in both the right-wing ruling camp and the opposition.
The legislation, which brings France into line with a 2001 European Union law, sets out rules on the growing of both conventional and GM crops.
Left-wing critics have attacked the legislation as lacking strong enough safeguards to protect conventional crops from possible contamination from GMOs.
On the right, critics said it gave too much ground to environmentalists by making farmers publicly disclose any GM field under cultivation.
In an embarrassment for President Nicolas Sarkozy, opposition lawmakers managed last week to throw out the text on a technicality after only one third of his right-wing UMP party turned out to support it.
But a new version of the bill was swiftly brought back before both houses of parliament, where the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) holds a comfortable majority.
The upper house Senate approved the text -- already voted by the National Assembly -- by 183 to 42. The opposition Socialists abstained from the vote.
Several dozen anti-GM protestors rallied outside the Senate building as lawmakers adopted the bill, which lays down the "freedom to consume and produce with or without GMOs".
The bill also sets two-year jail terms for tearing up GM crops -- a method of choice for anti-GM campaigners including the farmer-activist Jose Bove.
No genetically-modified crops are officially being grown in France, after the government in February banned the only strain of GM maize under cultivation in the country, MON810, produced by US agribusiness giant Monsanto.
Reflecting widespread public hostility to GM crops, France invoked a European Union safeguard that gives an EU member state authority to ban a GM crop provided it has scientific evidence to back this decision.
Last year, GM crops covered less than one percent of farmland in France, Europe's top agricultural producer, with 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) of GM maize planted across the country.
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