BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European biotech industry has come out strongly against recent French moves to ban GM maize. "We have serious doubts about the process that has led to this decision," said Nathalie Moll, executive director of EuropaBio, the EU association for bioindustries.

Moll said the French government's decision to invoke a European Union safeguard clause to prevent marketing of the product - Monsanto's MON 810, officially authorized for use in all 27 EU member countries - contradicts the conclusions of the France's own environmental experts as well as French government policy on ecological and sustainable development.

France is Europe's largest maize grower. In 2007, French farmers grew almost 22 000 hectares of Bt maize, boosting their income by $2.25 million.

France's decision was based on a new study's claims of "a negative impact on flora and fauna," but doubts have been raised over the thoroughness of the study. Moll said that the report was compiled in a couple of weeks and stated that there was not sufficient time to review all the literature. She claimed 12 of the 15 scientists involved in the study disagreed with its conclusions and disputed the alleged evidence of negative consequences.

EuropaBio pointed out that the product has been approved within the world's most robust approval systems, and has been used and consumed by millions of people and animals without a single reported incidence of harm to anyone. It also received positive scientific reviews by Europe's food safety authority and has had a full approval in the EU since 1998.

Under EU law, the French ban must be examined within 60 days by EU experts, and if the evidence is considered insufficient, France could be forced to lift its ban. The EU has scheduled a major internal debate on GMOs in early February, in a bid to clarify overall policy on GM crops.

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