Co-Existence measures

Co-existence measures and legal aspects

The new French law contains general provisions for the coexistence of GMO crops and conventional crops.
The new French law contains general provisions for the coexistence of GMO crops and conventional crops.
Legal framework

The new voted French law (May 2008),  contains general provisions for the coexistence of genetically modified and conventional crops. It still needs for its final application several precisions with decree and bylaw notice regarding the final definition of "free-GMO" products and technical conditions of coexistence.

The Ministry of Agriculture plans to issue more concrete, crop-specific cultivation rules, such as minimum separation distances. It also intends that the production and marketing of products with the special designation "GMO-free" should continue to be possible. It ensures that restrictions will be implemented for cultivation of GM varieties where regional products with quality signs such as AOC certification (the French "certified origin" label) are grown and cultivation prohibition in national and regional parks.

French specific developments on GM law

The French law about GMOs transposing the EU directive 2001/18 and one part of the GMO in confined area was voted in June 2008 (n°2008-595 form the 25th of June 2008). Below is a brief description of the main decision:

  • Ensuring Freedom of consuming and producing with or without GMO in France. The text transposes the 2001 European directive allowing cultivation coexistence. It sets rules concerning the different variety of GMO plants authorised in France but do not define the "free-GMO".
  • Ensuring Transparency: every GMO crops localization and constitution will be made public in a national register. Each farmer shall notify the relevant authorities of this information.
  • Creating a High Council of Biotechnologies (replacing the High authority), in charge of the expertise, scientists chaired. It will be composed of a scientific committee expressing their opinion and a civil society committee giving recommendations. The council will have to determine, among others, distances between the GMO and conventional / organic crops.
  • Creating a Criminal Offence for all GMO field destruction or illegal GMO cultivation which predicts a 2 year prison sentence and a 75,000 € fine. The sentence is brought to 3 years prison and 150,000 € fine when it concerns a approved research trial.
  • Foreseeing financial compensation in case of fortuitous field contamination. The text foresees that GMO farmers should subscribe a financial guarantee in order to be able to compensate for any eventual financial loss bound to an accidental presence of GMO in the products of a close farm. In case of contamination, the GMO farmer is responsible only for the neighbouring land. The seed companies (producers or distributors) are exempted.
  • Concerning labelling, the high council of biotechnology will fix for each variety a threshold for the labelling "GMO Free" upon notice. The law will follow the European definition of "GMO free" once it will be ruled.

End of 2008, a rough project of decree concerning the separation distance has been discussed and disputed. Two decrees have been published regarding the High Council of biotechnologies and committee of national biological surveillance functioning (see relevant authorities). A third decree concerning labelling of GMO for the use of third party within a confined use only has been published in January 2009.

The application text of the GM law concerning the coexistence or the "Free GMO" will be prepared after the nomination of the High Council Biotechnologies, as it has to formulate its opinion about it.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ordered the French government to pay a €10 million fine for failing to transpose EU rules on genetically modified (GM) crops onto its national law code on time.

France has now implemented the GM law, a move that was finally completed in June this year. However, that was nearly six years after the October 2002 deadline that the EU had set.

Co-existence measures

Concerning the separation distance, a decree project from December 2008 foresaw a separation distance of 50 meters between a GM and non GM crops. This distance should double the space compared to the actual situation. The decree also foresees the technical precautions to be taken concerning material in order to avoid contamination of non GM crops. This project has not been finalized yet. The text should be finalised upon notice in 2009 after opinion of the High Council of Biotechnology.

January 2009: Athird decree of GM law application was published concerning labelling of GMO for the use of third party within a confined use only.

When the GMO are used in a listed facility for environment protection for a confined use of a third party (R&D or education), they should be labelled with the following:

  • Name of the GMO
  • Name and full address of the farmer’s facility listed in charge of the third party disposal
  • A mention specifying: contain GMO

Free-GMO labelling

Article 2 of the May 2008 law predicts that "while waiting for the final definition at the European level ", the free-GMO products threshold will be fixed upon advice from the High council of Biotechnologies, species by species The act requires the special "GMO free label" to be possible for the production and marketing of products without GM.

Two different possibilities are studied:

  • having a binary approach for plants: labelling "Genetically Modified" in products containing more than 0,9% GMO and "free-GMO" products that are under this threshold. Environment protection organizations are opposed to this labelling which don't recognize the products produced without any trace of genetically organism.
  • having a "free-GMO" label on products without any GMO trace and the product with more than 0.9% are labelled GMO.

The application text of the GM law concerning the "Free GMO" label will also be prepared after the nomination of the High Council biotechnology, as it has to formulate its opinion about it.

Liability and redress for economic losses

A GM farmer must accept liability for any resulting loss of income from a neighbour non-GM farmer harvest contaminated. For instance, any farmer planning to grow GM crops must take out some form of financial protection beforehand, such as liability insurance or compensation fund. However for the moment in France the insurance companies do not have policies to cover such risks.

Regional Co-extra reporter /rapporteur:

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