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Cablegate: France's Draft Biotech Bill: Mon-810 at Risk

VZCZCXRO4146
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #4606/01 3341313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301313Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1304
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2776
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 004606

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

BRUSSELS PASS USEU FOR AGMINCOUNSELOR
STATE FOR OES; EUR/ERA(GRAY); EEB/TPP/ABT/BTT (BOBO);
STATE PASS USTR FOR MURPHY/CLARKSON;
OCRA/CURTIS;
STA/SIMMONS/JONES/HENNEY/SISSON;
EU POSTS PASS TO AGRICULTURE AND ECON
GENEVA FOR USTR, ALSO AGRICULTURE

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR SENV ECON ETRD EU FR

SUBJECT: FRANCE'S DRAFT BIOTECH BILL: MON-810 AT RISK

REF: (A) PARIS 4567; (B) PARIS 4364, (C) PARIS 4170, (D) 2006 PARIS

2439

1. (SBU) Summary: Following France's months-long internal
environmental review (ref A, B and C), French authorities have
generated a draft biotech bill for review by the Council of State
then the National Assembly and Senate, where it will be debated
before becoming law. A preliminary version, shared with the
Embassy, describes composition of a new authority for reviewing seed
varieties and sets forth a liability regime under which biotech
growers would bear full weight for any economic harm caused to
neighbors. Of particular concern is a provision that would mandate
public disclosure of biotech crop location at the parcel level. It
is likely that the French will publish a decree in the French
Official Journal formalizing the suspension of MON810 maize seed
cultivation shortly. The GOF is also likely to issue a decree
creating an interim Biotech Authority, to assess MON810. End
Summary.

Draft Biotech Bill
------------------

2. The new competent authority would
be comprised of two committees, both of which would perform risk
evaluations. The scientific committee would be created from the
merge of the former Genetic Engineering Committee (assesses risk of
biotech products in confined spaces), the Biomolecular Engineering
Committee (assesses biotech products with regard to releases into
the environment), and the Biotech Monitoring Committee (monitors
biotech products once authorized and released into the
environment).

3. The economic, ethical and social committee would be comprised of
NGOs (2 representatives), farmers' unions (2), planting seed
industry (2), consumer groups (1), lawyer (1), environmentalist (1),
philosopher (1), and local authorities (1 or 2). Each scientific
and socio-economic committees would consist of 15 members.
Reportedly, these groups' advice would not be binding, but rather
their findings would be referred to the government for final
decision.

4. The draft bill is not specific on coexistence rules e.g.
cropping distances, but suggests that additional decrees will
specify the details after the bill is voted on by the Parliament.
The bill establishes a clear liability regime, under which full
responsibility would be borne by biotech growers when others are
harmed due to the accidental presence of GMOs. Biotech producers
would also need to contribute to an insurance fund. The draft bill
creates a public register, at the plot level, pinpointing biotech
crop production in France.

Suspension and Review of MON810
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) In the light of WTO requirements, the French Government
appears to have opted against invoking the safeguard clause to
suspend MON810 authorization. However, sources report that an
official decree is expected shortly in the French Official Journal
formalizing the suspension announced by President Sarkozy on October
25.

6. (SBU) In the coming days, the GOF likely will also to publish a
decree in the Official Journal creating an interim Biotech
Authority, whose structure would be similar to that of the permanent
competent authority. The transitional authority will be in charge
of the reassessment of MON810. This authority is also expected to
make recommendations regarding the authorization of biotech test
plots for 2008.

7. (SBU) Comment: Both the government's proposed biotech bill and
interim measures foreseen on MON810 present risks for biotech
cultivation in France. The interim assessment and the GOF's response
to it are uncertain. The draft bill reviewed by the Embassy
presents strong concern including for the review process itself,
liability issues and the publication of plot locations (especially
given France's poor track record bringing to justice those
responsible for biotech crop destruction). These factors, combined

PARIS 00004606 002 OF 002


with yet-to-be announced coexistence measures detailing cropping
distances, could make biotech production in France economically
unviable. End Comment.


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