Relevant authorities in France

To address adequately the complexity of co-existence along the food supply chain, several different ministries and advisory committees deal with genetically modified organisms.

General regulation on GMOs

In France, several Ministries (Ministry of Agriculture, Food, fisheries and rural concerns, Ministry in charge of research, Ministry of Ecology, energy, sustained and territory development, Ministry of Economy and Finance) are involved in the process of authorization and GMO control.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is responsible for authorising the release of new crops into the environment for commercial use with approval of the Ministry of Ecology energy, sustained and territory development, It was holding the secretariat of the former CGB (see below). The Ministry of Research is responsible for authorising the use of GMOs in research and development (see former CGG below).

The GMO appraisal & authorisation will be done by the High Council of Biotechnologies (Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies) related to the environment and public health and by the (French Agency for Food Security) l'Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments (AFSSA) for the food sanitary security (human and animal food).

Controls are carried out by the General Directorate for Fair trading, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Controls (DGCCRF (Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes) all food and feed products and EU produced seeds), the General Directorate for Food (Ministry of Agiculture and Fisheries, DGAL, imported seeds) and by the Group for the Control and Certification of Seed Varieties (GEVES) for seeds certification.

High Council of Biotechnologies

The French law about GMOs transposing the EU directive 2001/18 was voted in June 2008 (n°2008-595 form the 25th of June 2008) creating a High Council of Biotechnology in charge of the GMO expertise.

The 8th of December 2008, the decree detailing the High Council of Biotechnology (HCB) functioning was published. The HCB will provide its opinion regarding every GMO questions. It will take the functions of the former CGG (Commission du Génie Génétique, confined use of GMOs) and CGB (Commission du Génie Biomolécualire, environment released GMOs).

Two committee will compose the HCB: a scientific committee with ca. 40 members (specialists from different discipline genetic engineering, molecular biology, human and animal health protection, ecology, sociology rights, agronomy...) and a social & ethical committee with 26 members (associations of environmental & consumers’ protection, representative of the rural world, local authority,...). 

Nominations have been done the last 22nd of April to get started in early may 2009.

Comité National de Biovigilance

This committee will be in charge of following up the eventual appearance of non-intentional effects (recommendations on the surveillance orientations, Ministry warning, opinion on the observation protocol needed for the overall surveillance,...). 20 members (Scientists nominated by the Ministry of agriculture) will be part of this committee. It replaces the former “Comité provisoire de Biovigilance” (see below).

The CES (Committee of scientific experts) of biotechnologies of the AFSSA (Agence Française de Sécurité sanitaire des aliments) is composed of GMO specialist scientific member. It conducts the scientific evaluation of GMO regulation and market launches and risk evaluation for human and animal health of the food made out or composed with GMO.  In 2009, members of this CES will be replaced.

Former Advisory panels

Before the GM law voted last may 2008, 3 other advisory commissions were involved with GMO in general:

  • In 1998, France installed “Le Comité de Biovigilance”, an advisory committee in charge of giving opinions on protocols to follow the apparition of “undesirable events” linked with the dissemination or the introduction on the market of GM products (e.g. plants, seeds, phyto-pharmaceutical products). It was based on the rural code. It was composed of scientists, members of parliament, and civil organisations. The committee was bound to the protocol of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of the Ecology, energy, sustained and territory development must alert both institutions in the case of an anomaly or “undesirable event” and was also involved in the development of co-existence recommendations.
  • La Commission du génie génétique (CGG) advised the French Minister of the Environment, who authorises the contained use of GMOs for industrial applications. The CGG also advises the Minister of Research on the same issues.
  • La Commission du génie biomoléculaire (CGB) gave advice to the Minister of Agriculture on field trials and commercialisation of new GMOs.

Activities of the French EU presidency

From July 1st until the end of 2008, France had the EU presidency and was seeking to reopen discussions on approval procedures for GMO at the European level for:

  • pushing for more comprehensive testing of GMO for possible effects on the humans and environment and for greater consideration in the scientific advice provided by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) of national safety agencies advices.
  • debating and fixing labelling threshold for GM presence in seeds
  • Giving the option of restricting the cultivation of GM varieties that have already been approved in their respective country to take into account particular ecosystems, agricultural practices and geographic conditions.

Regional Co-extra reporter /rapporteur:

Back to overview page for France

partnership Europa logo FP6 logo