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In 2008, the French government banned the cultivation of GM corn MON810 (autorised since 1998). On which basis: science or politics?
Chronology of some relevant French political events:
January 8, 2008, during a press conference, President Nicolas Sarkozy stated that the safeguard clause will be engaged against GMOs in case of « serious doubts » concerning their biosafety.
Immediately the next day, Senator Le Grand (from N. Sarkozy’s Party), Chairman of the temporary Biotechnology Committee (Comité de Préfiguration de la Haute Autorité sur les biotechnologies, CPHA), announced that « serious doubts » were found for MON810.
Jan 10, the government took up these terms of « serious doubts ».
Jan 11, 12 out of the 15 CPHA scientists rebutted these interpretations.
Jan 13, the Prime Minister admitted it was: « a compromise sealed in the ‘Grenelle de l’environnement’ » (a national debate on the environment)
March 08, during an interview with Agriculture Horizon, Sen. Le Grand admitted that
« N.Kosciusko-Morizet (Junior-Minister of Ecology) had requested the terms ‘serious doubts’ to be used rather than ‘questions’ ».
The chairman of a risk-assessment committee shouldered by 2 Ministers
JL Borloo, Sen. Le Grand N.Kosciusko-Morizet
Minister of Ecology Junior-Minister
Then, during 2008, the French Government relied on the minority of the scientists from CPHA to justify its MON810 ban.
According to some journalists (Yves Thréard, Jean-Paul Jaillette, Gil Rivière-Wekstein): cultivation of MON810 has been banned as a political deal with the environmentalists before the National debate on the environment ( ‘Grenelle de l’environment’, end of 2007).
The content of the deal: GMOs will be sacrified but nuclear energy will not come under attack during the debates.
More details (in French): scientists vs. politicians.
What happened next?
Sen. Le Grand’s ruled CPHA never met again. Under new legislation, a new committee replaced the CPHA. Significantly, it was no longer called a ‘High Authority’ but ‘High Council on Biotechnology’ (HCB).
The government’s aim remains unchanged: justification of an already taken political decision (long-term ban of GMO cultivation).