> French roundup on GM-contaminated rapeseed
> story and EU's GM policy
> Source: BBC Monitoring European - Political
> Publication date: 2000-06-04
> The accidental crossing of genetically-modified rapeseed with
> conventional rapeseed in several EU countries, notably in France,
> has given rise to controversy over the consequences in terms of
> health and pollution, as well as the measures to be taken, and
> re-launched the European debate on the control of such products.
> The following is a roundup of French media reports by Monitoring
> research on 4th June:
> The company Advanta Seeds, a subsidiary of the Advanta group,
> announced in London on 18th May that conventional rapeseed
> produced in Canada and containing 1 per cent of
> genetically-modified (GM) seed had been sown by mistake in France,
> Britain, Sweden and Germany.
> The news re-launched the debate on the control of genetically-
> modified organisms (GMOs) in Europe, particularly in the four
> countries concerned, among them France, where 600 hectares were
> "A storm in a tea cup"?
> In an article published in `Le Monde' on 20th May, the French daily
> paper noted that only Sweden and the UK had decided to inform the
> public about the issue, while European ecologist organizations were
> calling for the destruction of the crops affected.
> However, the controversy rapidly made its way into the French
> political arena. To begin with, the government seemed to share its
> German counterpart's stance of not making a fuss about it. Public
> France-2 TV in its main evening news on 18th May reported that the
> authorities had said that there were no pollution or health risks,
> before saying the day after that they were actually still not sure
> it. "I am awaiting the results of the investigation which alone will
> determine the significance and the risks posed by this phenomenon,"
> Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany was quoted as saying.
> Meanwhile, Environment Minister Dominique Voynet was speaking
> out strongly in favour of destroying the crops; she was backed by
> ecological organizations, such as Greenpeace, consumer groups and
> the Farming Federation (trade union). She finally made her point
> since the government announced in a statement on 25th May that it
> had ordered the destruction of the GM-contaminated rapeseed. "I
> have not changed my mind," explained the agriculture minister,
> quoted by public France Info radio that day. The minister had said,
> when the story broke, that it was all "a storm in a tea cup". But after
> the government's decision, he acknowledged: "The phrase, which
> was quantitative, was - qualitatively speaking - clumsy, perhaps. But
> quantitatively speaking, I think we really do need to keep things in
> "The principle of the polluter pays"
> The minister also said that day that "an investigation was under way
> to find out who was responsible and prevent the recurrence of such
> incidents" and that "measures were being taken in conjunction with
> the companies concerned", the French news agency AFP reported.
> The Advanta company, thus put in the spotlight, answered that the
> government's decision was "a solution out of all proportion with the
> objective reality of the case", AFP reported the same day, adding
> that the company had nevertheless announced that it was "ready to
> cooperate fully with the French authorities and with its agricultural
> distribution clients in order to safeguard their interests and those of
> the farmers concerned as well as possible".
> Glavany reiterated in an interview on private RTL radio on 29th May:
> "We have to apply the principle of the polluter pays. This means that,
> a little like the case of the Erika in which we asked TotalFina to
> advance some money and finance as soon as possible (the clean-up
> operation), we are asking the Advanta company, which is behind this
> incident... to shoulder its responsibilities." Four days later Advanta
> France announced, in a statement quoted by AFP, that it would bear
> part of the cost of the compensation to be paid to French farmers,
> stressing however that this move was not "a legal obligation", but "a
> special one-off commercial gesture to its customers..." The company
> nevertheless reiterated that the government's decision was out of
> While Advanta, the French Confederation of Seed-producers, the
> National Inter-professional Seed Group and the Union of Industries
> for the Protection of Plants have deplored the government's decision,
> as AFP reported on 25th May, Greenpeace was very pleased with it.
> The head of Greenpeace-France said in a statement cited by AFP
> the same day: "This accident sheds light on the agri-food industry's
> incapability to produce seeds which are 100 per cent conventional, in
> other words completely free of genetic modification... Around 10 per
> cent of imported corn seeds in fact come from the United States.
> Knowing that half of the US harvest is genetically modified, one
> would not be wrong to believe that these seeds could be
> contaminated." In his RTL interview, Glavany answered that
> Greenpeace was indeed correct, adding however that "if on finding
> small traces of genetically-modified elements here and there we were
> to destroy millions of hectares of corn in France, the whole of the
> French agricultural sector would be in difficulty".
> Towards a "joint (EU) approach"?
> Glavany also said on this occasion that he did not believe there was
> any immediate risk to health from the accidental crossing of GM
> rapeseed with French rapeseed. But he acknowledged there was a
> need to "be very cautious in this kind of matter" because the
> long-term effects on humans and the environment were unclear. In
> this respect, he noted that he was rather amazed that, among the
> countries affected only Sweden and France had given instructions for
> the crops to be destroyed. "This means that we need to talk to each
> other more", he said, "and above all to regulate these problems
> better so that we have a joint approach", in particular to combat US
> pressure to buy GM seed and hormone-treated beef. "The battle is
> being fought on the European front", he added "and we are also
> going to discuss it here at the European agriculture meeting in
> However, AFP reported on 29th May, although the ministers meeting
> in Evora in Portugal agree on adopting a joint approach on GMOs
> they are divided over the measures to be taken. For British
> Agriculture Minister Nick brown, AFP explained, the problem is not a
> matter of public health or agriculture: "It is a commercial question
> a matter of consumer choice". But his French counterpart believes
> that "we cannot remain in this position of disharmony. We need
> method and coherence at the European level". For German
> Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funcke, considering the fact that the
> issue was not initially on the agenda of this informal meeting, "there
> is no need to think of it now". It is apparently the position of the
> which prevailed since AFP reported the following day that the
> agriculture ministers had decided to postpone their discussions on
> GMOs to their next meeting in June.
> What about the customers' needs and wishes? Neither the French
> media nor the government seem to have really raised the issue.
> However, for information, the latter has created a website on GMOs
> which can be visited on the following address .
> Publication date: 2000-06-04
> © 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.
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