31 July 1998
France orders moratorium on GM plants

THE French Government announced a two-year moratorium on the introduction of genetically-modified crops – other than corn – in response to concerns over the impact of bringing them into the food chain.

The Government appears to have become more cautious since taking a decision last November which allowed the introduction of three strains of genetically altered corn produced by the Swiss group, Novartis.

The French move comes as Friends of the Earth (FoE) called on Michael Meacher, environment minister, to seek a ban on the commercialisation of a type of genetically modified sweetcorn (maize).

The environmental lobby said BT Maize, developed by Novartis, could kill lacewings, a beneficial insect that eats agricultural pests and provides food for birds. The FoE bases its accusation on a study by the Swiss Federal Research Stations for Agroecology and Agriculture.

The maize has been approved for commercial use by the European Union (EU) but under EU regulations the UK can seek a ban on the grounds that it threatens the environment.

The Guardian runs a one-page backgrounder on the debate over genetic engineering, complete with a map of some of the sites where trials are taking place.

Meanwhile, Monsanto – the US biotechnology group – succeeded in having injunctions extended against five women who pulled up crops on one of its GM test sites, in Oxfordshire.