BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - The French Ministry of Agriculture has authorized another eight field trials of genetically modified crops in 2002, although only three of the applicants have so far gone ahead with experimental plantings. All involve GM strains of corn.

Altogether, taking into account ongoing, multiyear trials, there are a total of 43 plots of land at 34 locations around France planted with experimental GM crops, an Agriculture Ministry official told BioWorld International. More than 30 of them are planted with GM corn, while there are two rapeseed trials under way, as well as one each of potato, sugar beet, poplar and coffee.

Both public research establishments and private companies are involved in these GM crop trials, many of which require the cooperation of individual farmers. Local communities are informed (but not consulted beforehand) when a site in their area is approved for a GM crop trial, but the actual plot of land is not identified to prevent "eco-terrorist" attacks.

Although some local mayors have issued directives banning GM field trials in their districts, their decisions have been challenged by the government (or its representatives) and overturned by the courts.

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