BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - A French environmental campaign group, France Nature Environnement, has published a comprehensive list of full field trials of genetically modified crops authorized in France in 2000. It shows that a total of 175 GM crop trials were approved last year in 37 of France's 95 mainland departments.

FNE, which is a confederation of some 3,000 environmental protection organizations, obtained the list from the Agriculture Ministry. At first, ministry officials refused to disclose the information, but FNE brought a lawsuit against the ministry, which was found guilty in March of violating a French law giving any citizen "the right to be informed about the effects that deliberate dissemination [of crops] might have on public health or the environment."

Over half of last year's trials were of sugar beets (80), in addition to which there were 49 of corn, 32 of oil seed rape, six of sunflower, and eight of other crops (potato, tobacco, lettuce, soya and chicory). They were mostly conducted by four international agro-chemical companies - Monsanto Co., Aventis Crop Science, Biogemma and AgreEvo - although a few were carried out by public research establishments such as the National Institute of Agronomic Research.

So far, FNE has not managed to obtain a corresponding list of GM crop trials authorized for 2001. Despite the court's decision, the ministry is dragging its feet, apparently fearing that environmental activists will use the information to destroy crops in the ground. The organization has complained to the government body responsible for granting access to official documents, and says it will take the ministry to court again if the group has not been given the list by the end of May.

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