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Cablegate: Despite Obstacles French Corn Growers

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

161441Z Dec 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 008505

SIPDIS

BRUSSELS PASS USEU FOR AGMINCOUNSELOR
STATE FOR OES; EUR/ERA AND EB (SPIRNAK);
STATE PASS USTR FOR MURPHY;
USDA/OS/JOHANNS AND PENN;
USDA/FAS FOR
OA/TERPSTRA/ROBERTS/SIMMONS/RICHEY/JONES;
ITP/SHEIKH/HENKE/MACKE/TOM POMEROY/MIKE
WOOLSEY/GREG YOUNG; BOB RIEMENSCHNEIDER
FAA/SEBRANEK/BLEGGI;
EU POSTS PASS TO AGRICULTURE AND ECON
GENEVA FOR USTR, ALSO AGRICULTURE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD PGOV FR WTRO EUN
SUBJECT: Despite Obstacles French Corn Growers
Will Plant Biotech Corn


1. SUMMARY: Despite a recent judicial decision
suspending jail sentences for 49 people found
responsible for test plot destruction and the
absence of a French law on coexistence of biotech
and non-biotech crops, French corn growers are
determined to continue planting biotech corn.
They planted up to 1,000 hectares in 2005 and that
area may well expand in 2006, obstacles
notwithstanding. END SUMMARY.

2. French farmers are increasingly interested in
the agronomic and economic aspects of genetically
modified corn. Their interest is understandable
for several reasons. The insecticide Gaucho is no
longer authorized for use in France on corn and
the use of Bt corn can compensate for this.
Further, some French corn growers, located
primarily in the southern region of France near
Spain were successful in selling their biotech
corn harvest to Spanish buyers in 2005.

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3. Farmers expecting to plant biotech corn again
in 2006 face several obstacles. Of concern to
these farmers is France's failure to provide
national legislation regulating the coexistence of
GM and non-GM crops and a French Court's recent
suspension of penalties against activists caught
destroying Monsanto's biotech test plots. Biotech
research has also been subject to significant
budget reduction.

4. French legislation implementing EU
biotechnology regulations, though recently signed
by the Prime Minister, must still pass the Conseil
d'Etat (State Council) review for Constitutional
compatibility before a final vote by the
Parliament is possible. Thus, it is difficult to
gauge a timeframe when French farmers will have
guidance on coexistence. Without clear rules,
those planting biotech crops face risk of
liability to some growers of conventional crops.

5. The French Parliament recently organized a
meeting on biotechnology, where several
Parliamentarians urged the French Government to
present a national legislative framework for
biotechnology. The bill is expected to include a
transcription into French law of the EU Directive
2001/18, rules on coexistence and a reorganization
of the national evaluation system for GMOs.

6. Another threat to French biotech farmers is
the continued destruction of biotech crops and
test plots by anti-biotech activists. In France,
open-field research on GM crops suffers from
massive test plot destructions every year by
activists (50 percent were destroyed in 2005),
discouraging private companies and public research
organizations from putting in place open field
test plots. Research institutions have cut their
biotech budgets and lost talent to other countries
with more favorable research conditions.

7. In a further blow to biotech research, the
French Criminal Court of Orleans suspended the 3-
month jail sentences of 49 people found
responsible for destroying Monsanto's biotech test
plots in 2004 and 2005. Monsanto reacted to the
decision with disappointment, reiterating that
acts of destruction must be condemned, and that
the right to conduct research must be
acknowledged. The public prosecutor's office and
Monsanto will appeal the case.

8. The French planting seed industry (through a
group of professional organizations) responded
that the court's decision was not science-based
and may have a significant impact on agriculture
and plant biotech research in France. They added
that farmers must be allowed to benefit from
biotechnology as a contribution to sustainable
agriculture.

Stapleton

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