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MONSANTO

French court annuls ban on Monsanto GM crops

France's top administrative court on Monday overturned a government order banning French farmers from planting genetically modified crops from the US agriculture giant Monsanto.

France’s agriculture ministry imposed a ban in February 2008 amid concerns over public safety, but its decision had already been called into question by the European Court and has now been annulled by the State Council.

The State Council’s ruling stated that the government had failed to prove that Monsanto crops “present a particularly elevated level of risk to either human health or the environment”.

In September, the European Court of Justice ordered France to review its ban. Since then, the Council ruled, the French government had failed to present new evidence of the supposed dangers posed by the plants.

Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, in a first reaction, said the government would “examine all options in order not to grow Monsanto 810 maize”.

Le Maire said the ruling did not surprise him and that the government continued to be opposed to planting genetically modified crops as there were “still too many uncertainties about the consequences for the environment”.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government has said in the past that if the ban was overturned it would seek a new legal “safety clause” to restrict planting.

The environment ministry wants to halt planting of “genetically modified organisms that have not been evaluated for conformity to new EU rules or about which there is uncertainty about their potential environmental impact.”

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace called upon the government to act quickly to put in place a new ban, fearing that the food industry might move to plant crops like Monsanto’s MON 810 strain of pest-resistant maize.

“If the government does not act in putting in place a new ban, we could see GM crops back in our fields as early as next year,” Greenpeace spokesman Sylvain Tardy claimed.

“Is that something Nicolas Sarkozy, very probably running for re-election, is ready to put up with, while French people remain against the idea of GM crops by a very large majority?” he demanded.

Monsanto markets MON 810 maize — which has been modified at a genetic level to include DNA from a bacteria — under the trade name YieldGuard as being resistant to insect pests that can threaten harvests.

But some governments believe it could pose a danger to plants and animals.

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MONSANTO

French police to probe alleged Monsanto lists on opinion-makers

France has opened a preliminary enquiry into allegations that US pesticides maker Monsanto had information illegally collected on the views and pliability of hundreds of high-profile figures and media outlets.

French police to probe alleged Monsanto lists on opinion-makers
Activists from the 'Attac' protest group scale the offices of Bayer -which recently acquired Monsanto- in La Garenne Colombes near the financial district of La Defence on the outskirts of Paris. Photo
Paris judicial police will carry out the probe following a complaint by the daily Le Monde and one of its journalists, whose names appear on the list, the Paris prosecutor's office said.
 
Two anti-pesticide NGOs — Foodwatch and Generations Futures — are also preparing to lodge legal complaints over the alleged lists.
 
The investigators will look into the possible “collection of personal information by fraudulent, unfair or illicit means”.
   
US giant Monsanto allegedly had public relations agency FleishmanHillard draw up the files on the opinions of the targeted people and media bodies on the controversial weedkiller glyphosate and on genetically modified crops as 
well as their propensity to be influenced in their opinions.
 
 
Figuring on the list are politicians, scientists and journalists — including four from AFP (Agence France-Presse). Information was collected on their views on pesticides and on Monsanto as well as their leisure pursuits, addresses and phone numbers, according to the France 2 public television channel.
   
Some of the names were listed under categories such as “priority targets” and “potential allies to recruit”, according to reports.
   
France's former environment minister Segolene Royal, whose name was said to appear on the lists, said the allegation “says a lot about the methods of lobbyists… they carry out spying, infiltration, seek to influence, sometimes financially I imagine”, adding that other companies are likely to indulge in similar practices.
   
A spokesman for FleishmanHillard told AFP: “FleishmanHillard and our staff are committed to compliance with applicable laws and we are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct. 
   
“We continue to take that responsibility very seriously and will carefully examine the questions raised by certain media outlets about the lists of stakeholders that included publicly available information.”
   
Glyphosate developer Monsanto was convicted in the United States in 2018 and 2019 of not taking necessary steps to warn of the potential risks of Roundup — their weedkiller containing the chemical, which two California juries found caused cancer in two users.
   
German pharmaceutical firm Bayer, which bought Monsanto last year, announced last month that over 13,000 lawsuits related to the weedkiller have been launched in the US. 
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