Monsanto abandons plans to sell GM maize in France

Monsanto recently scrapped plans to sell its MON810 genetically modified maize in France this year or any time soon.

“Monsanto considers that favourable conditions for the sale of the MON810 in France in 2012 and beyond are not in place,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Monsanto had not sold MON810 seed in France since spring 2007. A French court ruling in November 2011 had overturned a 2008 government ban on the sale of MON810.

However, the French government announced in advance of this year’s spring sowings that it intended to retain the moratorium, regardless of the court ruling.

While GM crops are widely grown in the Americas and south-east Asia, only MON810 and a potato variety — Amflora — have been approved for cultivation in the EU thus far, the former for animal feed and the latter for processing.

The latter has not been commercialised, with fewer than 20 hectares planted in 2011. Spain remains, by a considerable distance, the country in the EU with the largest plantings of MON810 maize.

In 2011, Spain planted 67,726 hectares. In 2011, this rose to 97,346 hectares. Spain has maintained high levels of the GM maize planting over the years.

There are 5,398 biotechnology firms in the EU, a figure surprisingly close to that of the US, which has almost 6,400.

Some now point to an ‘Italian flag’ attitude to GM in Europe — green for food, white for medicine, red for industry.

While companies like the Sainsbury Laboratory and Oxitec work on agri-related projects in Europe, there are severe limitations on, as well as widespread and ongoing concerns regarding, green (food) biotech.

This is evidenced by the very low rates of crop approvals (just two) and plantings.

However, white (medical) and red (industrial) GM have far wider acceptance. Indeed, these are mostly non-controversial.

Europe plants 110 million hectares of arable crops, and fewer than 0.1% of this, or 114, 545 hectares, is GM.

Meanwhile, the organic land area in Europe is now at 4%, and a major new organic food trade agreement has been announced between the EU and the US. More on this next week.

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