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Cablegate: French Biotech Finally Adopted - More to Come

VZCZCXRO1124
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #1071/01 1561446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041446Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3257
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RUEAUSA/HHS WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2910
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001071

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/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: FRENCH BIOTECH FINALLY ADOPTED - MORE TO COME

REFS: (A) PARIS 714 ; (B) 2007 PARIS 4660 ; (C) PARIS 78

1. Summary: On May 22, France adopted a biotech bill after weeks of
rancorous debate within the Parliament. The bill theoretically
guarantees French farmers and consumers the right to produce and
consume with or without GMOs. However, ministerial decrees
implementing the legislation will define the viability of
agricultural biotech in France. One ominous sign is the composition
of the newly-created biotech evaluation authority, which will be
composed not only of scientists, but will also have a socio-economic
committee. France is already trying to remodel the EU evaluation
process based on its new system. End Summary.

2. Following months of tense fractious political discussions and
frictions between the French government and Parliament (Ref A), a
French biotech bill was finally adopted on May 22, 2008. The bill,
which includes 14 articles, transposes EU Directives on the use of
genetically engineered products, creates a new biotech authority
(High Committee for Biotechnology), establishes technical conditions
for producing biotech crops through a new coexistence framework, and
sets harsher penalties for biotech crop destructions. France is one
of the last member states to finally transpose these EU Directives.


3. As anticipated in Ref A, in the rancorous debate in the
Parliament in April, the government lost control of the issue when
the National Assembly rejected the bill during its second reading on
May 13, to the surprise of many observers. This political stumble -
the first defeat of a bill under the Sarkozy government - was
largely due to the failure of the center-right UMP majority to
impose party discipline, given the sensitivity of the issue as well
as friction between the party deputies and the Sarkozy government.
Following the defeat, a reconciliation committee, composed of seven
Senators and seven representatives, was formed and prepared a bill
(virtually the same as the rejected version, without taking into
account the 800 amendments prepared by the opposition), on May 14,
which was passed by the National Assembly on May 20, and by the
Senate on May 22. Left-wing politicians are reportedly planning to
block the bill before it comes into law by filing an appeal to the
Constitutional Council.

4. The passage of this legislation is only the first step of many
that will be required to establish a legal framework on biotech in
France, as implementing decrees are required and expected in the
next few months. First, the new High Committee for Biotechnology,
created by the law, needs to be established. Its composition is
expected to be controversial as it will include both a scientific
committee and a socio-economic committee. (Though it will be up to
the High Committee's President to determine how much weight to give
to the advice of the socio-economic committee). This Committee will
likely mirror the Interim Committee put in place temporarily after
the "Grenelle" environmental consultations organized last fall (Ref
B). The Interim Committee's evaluation of MON810 led the GOF to
impose a national ban on MON810 planting (Ref C) until its
reevaluation by European authorities, which is still pending.

5. The decrees implementing the bill will have to be prepared and
published in the French Official Journal. Of high interest will be
the decrees detailing biotech and non-biotech crop coexistence
measures, such as cropping distances, that will be prepared by the
French Ministries of Agriculture and Environment. These
implementing decrees will influence, to a great extent, the economic
viability of biotech crops in France.

6. No GE crop production will take place in France in 2008, and no
open-field experiments are expected to be approved for new GE crop
varieties. While the French Minister of Agriculture had officially
announced open-field test plots would be authorized in 2008, to
date, there has been no administrative authority formed to approve
proposals. Thus, it is expected that only approvals to renew
multi-year trials will be provided.

7. Conclusion: Despite the completion of the biotech bill, many
uncertainties remain, and recent events have generated added
insecurity among consumers towards GE products, while farmers are
uncertain whether they will have access to GE seeds next year. Seed
companies are uncertain about being able to conduct field trials
this year, or market their GE seeds next year. These are not
promising developments in France and even more worrisome is its
intention to export its GE evaluation framework as a model for the
EU. France is likely to strengthen these efforts during its

PARIS 00001071 002 OF 002


presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2008.

Stapleton

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