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Cablegate: Press Reporting French Moratorium On Commercial Biotech

VZCZCXRO4523
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #3970 2641533
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211533Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0344
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1910
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0488
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2739
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS PARIS 003970

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

BRUSSELS PASS USEU FOR AGMINCOUNSELOR
STATE FOR OES; EUR/ERA AND EB(SPIRNAK);
STATE PASS USTR FOR MURPHY;
USDA/OS/CONNER/TERPSTRA;
USDA/FAS FOR OA/YOST;
OCRA/CURTIS
STA/SIMMONS/JONES/HENNEY
FAA/YOUNG;
EU POSTS PASS TO AGRICULTURE AND ECON
GENEVA FOR USTR, ALSO AGRICULTURE

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

SUBJECT: PRESS REPORTING FRENCH MORATORIUM ON COMMERCIAL BIOTECH
PRODUCTION

REF: PARIS 2439

1. Summary: On September 20, a "Le Monde" article, titled "France
Turns Towards the End of GMOs," reported that the French government
is considering freezing the sale of biotech seeds in 2008 pending
legislation to more rigorously control biotechnology in France.
This disclosure reportedly took agriculture analysts by surprise.
Farmers expect a serious public debate on the future of
biotechnology in France during ongoing environmental consultations,
one part of the "Grenelle for the Environment." While sources in
the parliament confirmed the possible freeze, other government
sources claim no decisions regarding biotechnology have been taken.
End Summary

2. The GOF is currently holding consultations on environmental
topics through the "Grenelle for the Environment" (reftel) process.
As reported reftel, the results of that process are expected to
inform government policy regarding biotech production and research.
"Le Monde" reported that Jean-Louis Borloo, State Minister for the
Environment, met parliamentarians from the presidential majority on
September 17. During this meeting, he is reported to have stated:
"On GMOs, everybody agrees that dissemination can not be controlled,
so, we can not take any risk." The article further stated that the
GOF envisions a ban on sales of commercial biotech seeds (only
MON810 seeds are approved for sale in France). Senator Jean
Francois Le Grand, chairperson of the biotechnology consultation at
the "Grenelle de l'Environnement" said that this would not be a
moratorium per se, but a temporary ban until the government passes a
law regulating biotechnology. He confirmed that the government has
no intention to ban field testing nor in-lab research.

3. The article further reported that, at the initiative of public
prosecutors, and possibly pursuant to orders from the Ministry of
Justice, the prosecution of several anti-biotech activists, accused
of destroying biotech test plots, had been indefinitely postponed.
Almost 20 biotech corn fields, for research and commercial
production, have already been destroyed in 2007 by anti-biotech
activists.

4. The Le Monde report came the same day that the French arable
crop association disclosed at its annual conference, for the first
time, public support for biotechnology for research and commercial
production. Philippe Pinta, President of the association, looked
stunned when he took the stage to disclose the potential biotech
freeze. French Agriculture Minister Barnier, booed by the audience
as he approached the podium at the farmers convention, limited his
speech to less than five minutes. He denied in a short declaration
that the government had made decision on the future of
biotechnology. On September 21, Christophe Malvezin, agricultural
advisor to President Sarkozy, confirmed to Ag Officer that the
government would continue the consultations before taking any
position. Sarkozy's spokesperson, Laurent Wauquiez, also issued an
official confirmation of this position.

5. Pinta subsequently announced an emergency meeting of farm
leaders. Several farm organizations planned to withdraw from the
Grenelle discussions in reaction to the possibility that the
government was taking decision before the end of the consultations.
In Brussels, an EU Commission spokesperson confirmed that a French
ban on EU-approved commercial GM seeds would be illegal and could
generate hefty fines for France.

6. Anti-biotech organizations have called for the destruction of the
2007 French GM corn crop (some 60,000 acres). An anti-biotech
demonstration is scheduled for September 22 in a small town in
central France and a large march October 9 in Paris, culminating
with a meeting on October 14. There are rumors that additional
demonstrations may occur subsequently to pressure the GOF to enact a
moratorium on biotechnology production.

PEKALA

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