Following the recent Grenelle de l’Environnement (see the October 2007 edition of Environment, planning and regulatory news), which concluded that there was an urgent need to review French regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the French senate has recently voted on a draft law dealing with the issue. A heated debate in the senate saw the initial draft prepared by the government significantly amended to reflect a more pro-GMO stance.

In terms of content, the draft law is more ambitious than the existing 2007 French decrees on the deliberate release of GMOs, which only made the authorisation process more transparent. It will complete France’s implementation of the EU deliberate release of GMOs directive (directive 2001/18/EC) and the EU directive on contained use of GMOs (directive 98/81/EC). The draft law also provides for:

  • the creation of a high council of biotechnologies comprised of a civil society committee and a scientific committee. The latter will deliver opinions on the risks and benefits associated with the use of GMOs;
  • strict liability for farmers for economic damage caused by unintentional contamination of other crops by GMOs and, as a consequence, a requirement on farmers to provide financial guarantees before planting GM crops;
  • notification of the intention to plant GM crops to the administrative authority. The administrative authority would establish a national register, available to the general public, containing details of the type and location of GMO plots;
  • an offence of damaging an authorised GMO plot, punishable by two years imprisonment and a maximum fine of €75,000; and
  • recognition of the right to produce or consume food with or without GMOs.

The draft law will be debated in the French national assembly in April 2008