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Cablegate: French Biotech Authority Created As Ecj Fines France

VZCZCXRO3796
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #2249/01 3461433
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111433Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5036
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2970
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 002249

SIPDIS

BRUSSELS PASS USEU FOR AGMINCOUNSELOR
STATE FOR OES; EUR/ERA; EEB/TPP/ABT/BTT (BOBO);
STATE PASS USTR FOR MURPHY/CLARKSON;
USDA/FAS FOR OA/YOST/JACKSON/ROSADO;
OCRA/SALMON/SEIDBAND;
STA/JONES/HENNEY/SISSON;
ONA/RIEMENSCHNEIDER/YOUNG/DENNIS;
OFSO/YOUNG;
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 AUTHORITY CREATED AS ECJ FINES FRANCE

Ref: (A) Paris 714; (B) Paris 1071; (C) Paris 2046

1. Summary: On December 7, France announced the creation of a new
biotech evaluation authority in the French Official Journal. The
declaration of the new "competent authority," called The High
Biotech Committee, preceded, but did not halt, the imposition of a
10 million euro fine by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for
France's failure to implement European rules on growing genetically
engineered crops. The creation of the authority will allow France
to implement its biotech law, adopted in June 2008. However, the
Committee, which will include a strong social and ethical component,
is unlikely to be friendly to biotech cultivation. End Summary.

2. The establishment of a new biotech authority was a requirement of
a French biotech law adopted in June, 2008. (refs A and B) The new
law was prompted by a national environmental review in 2007 (which
resulted in the dissolution of the previous, science-based competent
authority) and by the fact that France faced significant fines for
failure to enact a biotech framework in accordance with a 2002 EU
law.

3. According to decree 2008-1273 published in the Journal, the new
authority will broaden its evaluation of biotechnology approvals
beyond science to include a socio-economic aspect as well. The
authority will have two subcommittees, one supposedly focused on
scientific analysis and the other on economic, ethical and social
dynamics of biotechnology.

4. The scientific subcommittee will consist of a maximum of 40
members, including at least: 3 genetics specialists; 3 microbiology
specialists; 10 specialists in human and animal health protection; 3
specialists in agronomy; one specialist in statistics; 3 specialists
in environmental sciences; one lawyer; one economist; and one
sociologist.

5. The economic, ethical and social subcommittee will consist of at
least: one member of the national ethics consultative committee; 3
representatives from environmental protection organizations; 2
representatives from consumer organizations, one representative from
the High Committee on Public Health; one representative from the
hospital or public health sector; 5 representatives from farmers
organizations; one representative from a food industry organization;
one representative from the pharmaceutical industry organization;
one representative from a seed industry organization; 2
representatives from biotech company employees organizations; one
representative from the French mayor's organization; one
representative from the French administrative department
organization; one representative from the French administrative
region organization; one Parliamentarian from the Parliament's
Science and Technology Office; one lawyer; one economist; and one
sociologist.

6. The French Prime Minister's office has made a public call for
nominations to the Committee and will choose the members. Members
will serve five year terms. Ministers from Environment,
Consumption, and Agriculture can request biotech evaluations from
the new High Biotech Committee.

7. Following its implementation, the new Committee must resolve
several pending items in order to implement the biotech bill adopted
in June 2008 and come into compliance with EU requirements. These
items include defining non-biotech products and establishing
coexistence measures for biotech and non-biotech cultivation. In
addition, the Committee must review pending dossiers on the confined
use of genetically engineered (GE) products (the previous French
committee used to review approximately 400 dossiers per year) and
the release into the environment (cultivation) of a large number of
GE products. Biotech companies in France are eager to resume open
field trials in 2009 as no new trials were authorized in 2008.
8. Despite France's recent progress in establishing a biotech
framework for genetically engineered crops, the European Court of
Justice imposed a 10 million euro fine on France on December 9th for
its failure to do so between 2002 and 2008. The Court rejected
France's argument that it had been unable to enact the 2002 EU law
requiring rules for biotech crop cultivation due to fervent anti-GMO
activities in France. The Court called France's conduct "unlawful"
and said the ruling should warn other Member States that failure to
implement EU regulations comes with a price.

PARIS 00002249 002 OF 002


9. Comment: Given the heavy workload of the Committee and its
complex structure, the decision making process is expected to be
lengthy and the expectation for new GE crop approval low. Following
a freeze on the cultivation of GE corn in France in 2007, (ref C)
the creation of this new Committee is not expected to result in a
resumption of commercial production of GE crops in 2009. Moreover,
the fact that even the so-called scientific committee includes a
lawyer, an economist and a sociologist indicates that deliberations
within the Committees will likely be contentious and it will be
difficult for the authority as a whole to find a way forward. End
Comment.

Pekala

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