NOTE: Great news from France, although there's still a long way to go.

Thanks to Claire for this translation. For the French original



GMOs: the opposition claims a 'political victory'

J.B. ( with AFP, AP and

3 April 2008

[Photo caption: 'It's a victory and a political event,' rejoiced the Socialist Party MP Germinal Peiro]

The National Assembly adopted an amendment restricting the use of these organisms [GMOs] in quality agricultural production lines: AOC ['controlled term of origin', the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products], labels[?], organics. Debates will be extended to Monday.

An explosion of joy in the House. It was with these words that Agence France-Presse described the reaction of Socialist Party members of parliament after the adoption on Wednesday night of an amendment which strongly restricts the use of GMOs, especially in areas of 'controlled term of origin' (AOC). The opposition called the vote on this amendment a 'political victory' against the [UMP] majority.

'Despite strong pressure from the UMP group on the government, which had allowed the Assembly to make a free choice, the left-wing MPs, joined by some responsible members, allowed a fundamental breakthrough in respect of non-GMO crops,' rejoiced the Socialist MPs in a statement. Four UMP MPs voted for the amendment.

Defended by the Communist Andre Chassaigne, the amendment stipulates that 'GMOs can only be used in respecting [in the sense of deferring to] not only the environment and public health, as the government's draft bill stated, but also farm structures, regional ecosystems, and commercial production lines designated 'non-GM', and with complete transparency'.

For the Socialist MPs, the adoption of this amendment provides a legal basis to exclude GMOs from parts of [French] territory. 'This is a victory and a political event,' rejoiced one of its authors, Socialist Party MP Germinal Peiro. The former UMP Minister and former trade unionist Christian Jacob played down the amendment: 'There was a bit of confusion. (...) It is not a huge tragedy and we will correct it.'

Lengthy debate

On Thursday, MPs approved a UMP amendment aimed at strengthening protection for 'traditional crops' against the risk of contamination. Presented by MP Francois Grosdidier, one of few from the majority to express disagreement with the government's draft bill, the amendment -- voted through with the support of the Socialist Party, PCF [French Communist Party], and the Greens -- states that 'Freedom to consume and produce with or without GMOs' must be done 'without jeopardizing the integrity of the environment and the distinctiveness of traditional and quality crops.' It covers the first article of the draft bill. The announcement of the vote has already been hailed by environmentalists, headed by Greenpeace and France Nature Environnement [environmental organisation].

Already adopted on Feb. 8 by the Senate, the text will be the subject of a solemn [formal?] ballot on Tuesday, April 8, which will reveal the vote of each MP. The discussions have been extended because only some forty amendments (out of 476) were examined on Thursday afternoon.

Jean-Francois Legrand troubles the [UMP] majority

In addition, controversy continues amongst the [UMP] majority regarding the remarks of the UMP Senator UMP of La Manche, Jean-Francois Legrand. In an interview with Le Monde, he accused MPs of the majority party of being 'controlled' by the American company Monsanto and other seed companies. The president of the National Assembly

Bernard Accoyer, while rejecting strongly the remarks of his Senator colleague, acknowledged that the deputies had 'every day' sustained pressure from lobbyists on the topic of GMOs, especially from those who oppose GMOs. Judging this climate 'unhealthy', he wishes to put in place 'rules of transparency'.

On Thursday, agriculture minister Michel Barnier has for his part judged the allegations of the senator as 'fairly serious'. When questioned about the amendment tabled by Socialist MPs and adopted Wednesday, he played down its scope, assuming that those areas could 'already be protected'.

In contrast, the UMP member for Moselle, Francois Grosdidier, who is calling for a return to the draft law as it was before its passage in the Senate, expressed his support for Jean-Francois Legrand. He held that 'an accusation of intellectual influence is not an accusation of financial corruption, as Patrick Ollier, president of the commission of economic affairs, tried to convince [people] yesterday in the National Assembly, in order to disqualify Jean-Francois Legrand [from political office].'