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Cablegate: Growing Criticism in France On Gm Safeguard

VZCZCXRO6266
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #0098/01 0181540
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181540Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1731
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2812
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 000098

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

BRUSSELS PASS USEU FOR AGMINCOUNSELOR
STATE FOR OES; EUR/ERA; 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

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

SUBJECT: GROWING CRITICISM IN FRANCE ON GM SAFEGUARD

REF: (A) 2008 PARIS 00078 (B) PARIS 4731

Sensitive but unclassified, please protect accordingly.

1. (U) Summary : France's decision to initiate the safeguard clause
against Mon 810 (Reftel A), has been widely criticized by a growing
number of scientists, parliamentarians and farm organizations as
lacking scientific basis. A number of press articles have echoed
their criticisms that the GOF's decision was politically motivated
rather than scientifically justified. End summary

2. As reported (Ref A), immediately after the president of the
interim high authority on GMOs (a senator) announced that there were
"serious doubts" about MON 810 and that new facts demonstrating
"negative effects" had been discovered, 12 of the 15 scientists on
the authority refuted this statement. These scientists represent a
wide range of disciplines including genetics, molecular biology,
toxicology, population genetics, genetic therapy, epidemiology,
agronomy, entomology, microbiology, veterinary sciences, biomedical
research, and statistics. Additionally, an economist and a lawyer
on the authority's social and ethical committee signed the petition.
The petition also lamented the lack of time the authority was given
to perform its inquiry on MON 810.

3. (SBU) In a meeting with EMBoffs, two of the scientists who signed
the petition complained that while they were not at liberty to
divulge the details of the proceedings, they were not given adequate
time to prepare their recommendations or review the final wording of
the report. (The authority's first meeting took place in
mid-December and the report was released on January 9.) They also
complained that in communicating to the public, the president of the
authority selected certain phrases in the report to present an
unbalanced picture of its contents. It also became clear that the
report took some scientific findings out of context. For example,
the report cites the work of Dr. Messean (2006) in arguing that it
is impossible to avoid pollen drift on a local scale (i.e. in a
region with many small farms). Upon questioning by Emboffs, Dr.
Messean said that what his report had concluded was that it was
impossible to ensure a zero threshold for pollen drift (as required
for organic production in France), but possible to ensure that the
EC threshold of 0.9 percent could be met. The toxicologist Emboffs
queried emphasized that new positive evidence had come to light
regarding mycotoxins. (This finding did not receive wide
publicity.)

4. (U) The French Association for Scientific Information (AFIS) was
one of the first organizations to criticize the GOF decision. AFIS
is an organization of dozens of world-renowned French scientists
that aims to promote legitimate scientific discourse (as opposed to
pseudo-science). After examining the authority's opinion and having
had contact with several scientists who participated in the meetings
of the Committee, AFIS publicly announced that it had concluded that
that none of the arguments brought forward in the report could be
considered new or severe, thereby justifying the activation of a
safeguard clause. (AFIS was also behind the petition signed by 300
scientists supporting biotech and discouraging the GOF from invoking
the precautionary principle on MON 810 reftel B.)

5. (U) Eminent members of the French Academies of Science,
Technology and Agriculture published an open letter, in the daily Le
Figaro, on 11 January 2008. Excerpt : "[...] We are astonished to
see how little the work of scientists in the domain of GMOs is taken
into account. Let's remember that before any authorization for
cultivation of a GMO, each product is subject to a thorough
evaluation on a case by case basis, on a national level as well as
on a European one. [...] How to explain to the French people, that
it's now proposed, without adding any new, well- founded and
reasonable scientific elements, to ban this product today - which
was initially authorized by all the review bodies appointed by the
government - and how to convince the people to have confidence,
tomorrow and in the future, in the arguments brought forward by such
future authorities?".

6. (U) After the public outcry of the President of the National
Assembly, Bernard Accoyer in the weekly "Le Journal du Dimanche"
(reftel A), other parliamentarians from both the majority and
opposition parties openly criticized the GOF decision. Socialist
depute Jean-Yves le Deaut said that "The potential decision to
invoke the safeguard clause is not a credit to politics. The
provisional authority has been exploited to allow the majority party
to succeed in the municipal elections. In fact, the President of the

PARIS 00000098 002 OF 002


Republic was relying on an opinion that was not validated by the
provisional authority [...] Neither the terms "serious risks" nor
"negative effects" have been used in the opinion sent to the members
(of parliament). [...] In fact, the allegedly new scientific
publications have only confirmed what was already known [...]."
Senator Jean Bizet, who is the rapporteur for the biotech
coexistence law in the Senate, also expressed opposition to the use
of the safeguard clause, saying it was not scientifically founded
and that it would put France in "a ridiculous position at the EU
level" .

7. (U) According to the press, State Secretary for Ecology Nathalie
Kosciusko-Morizet had to face a very hostile group of majority party
parliamentarians. Deputies were worried that such safeguard decision
could weaken France's competitiveness in agricultural and food
trade. They were also furious that the executive branch had bypassed
the legislative branch.

8. The French Corn Growers Association (AGPM) denounced the
arguments of the French interim High authority's report as being
scientifically unjustified. They specifically provided arguments on
the following issues
- Pollen dissemination : corn pollen is one of the heaviest grain
pollens : 98 percent of corn pollens falls within 4 meters of the
plant. The remaining 2 percent flows further because dehydratation
makes the pollen lighter. All but a few of these pollens are non
viable. All European studies in Spain, Czech Republic, Italy and
Germany have shown that good cultural practices and buffer zones
allow neighboring crops to come in below the EU contamination
threshold of 0.9 percent.
- resistance in target insects : AGPM highlighted that insects
gaining resistance to BT mentioned in the studies are not pests
affecting corn and are not found in mainland France.
- possible impacts on non-target fauna and flora: even if some
studies show that the BT molecule can be found in soil and water,
all studies show that its impact is less harmful than that of
traditional pesticides. Studies also show that no impact was found
on pollinating bees fed with BT corn pollen.

9. AGPM also noted that all the studies mentioned in the report had
been reviewed by experts at both the French Food Safety Authority
(AFSSA) and by its European counterpart (EFSSA). None of those
agencies used those reports to revert their positive approval of
MON810. On the other hand, AGPM noted that the Interim High
Authority did not expand upon the benefits of cultivation of MON810
regarding the lower level of mycotoxins, such as fumonisin, which
are scientifically proven to cause cancer in mammals.


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