By Adam Vaughan | Guardian | May 22, 2012
Jose Bove and other activists protest genetically modified crops in a field in France. Photograph: Michel Gangne/AFP/Getty
France's attempt to ban the planting of a Monsanto strain of genetically modified maize was rejected by the EU's food safety body on Monday.
In response to scientific evidence submitted by France backing its bid to ban the GM maize, the European Food Safety Authority ruled that "there is no specific scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health or the environment" to support a ban.
In 2008, France banned the the strain MON 810 following public protests against the GM maize, but this was overturned by a French court in 2011. However, in March the French government reinstated the ban, with the then agricultural minister Bruno Le Maire saying the move was "to protect the environment".
The Monsanto-owned strain, marketed as YieldGard by the US company, is an insect-resistant strain of maize that was introduced in 1997.
In its verdict on Monday, Efsa said that much of the scientific evidence in France's new submission in January had already been included in a previous 2008 submission to the agency, which concluded at the time "that no specific scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health or the environment, was provided that would justify the invocation of a safeguard clause [ban]". It added that no new scientific work had been submitted that suggested there was risk to the environment, either.
A spokesman for Europe's health commissioner, John Dalli, told the AFP news agency that the EU executive "will consider how to follow up on this ruling, though technically we could ask France to raise its ban [on the Monsanto strain]".
The ruling follows a renewed focus on GM food in the UK, with researchers making a plea to anti-GM activists not to rip up a test site of GM wheat. On Sunday, Hector Christie, an old Etonian farmer, was arrested for breaking into the Rothamsted Research site where the wheat is being grown and cutting the top off several plants.