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French green campaigners warn of 'hidden GMOs'

French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll
French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll AFP/Joël Saget

A group of French green campaigners have claimed that “hidden GMOs” are being smuggled into France in the form of herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape and sunflowers. Cultivation of genetically modified crops has been strictly controlled in France since 2008.

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“Just like most GMOs, these plants have been genetically manipulated to be able to survive when treated with herbicides,” an open letter by 10 environmentalists groups tells Agriculture Minister Stéphan Le Foll. “But these are hidden GMOs, since they are arbitrarily excluded from the field of application of the law on GMOs.”

"Putting onto the market some plants that can survive with herbicides on them is not good news for the environment or animals because they were never tested," Olivier Belval of the beekeepers' group, Unaf, told RFI. "We expect from the government that they put these hidden GMOs into the general GMO law."

Le Foll on Tuesday said the plants were not GMOs but organisms produced by mutagenesis, a change of genetic information that can occur naturally or by exposure to physical or chemical agents, known as mutagens.

But he went on to call for the debate on GMOs to “move on” and “collectively” seek “new models”.

Earlier Ecology Minister Philippe Martin declared the government’s “absolute hostility” to GMOs.

The open letter said that signatories were “already worried by the lifting of the moratorium on Monsanto OGM MON810 maize” and called on Le Foll to oppose the development of herbicide tolerant crops.

According to available figures, herbicide-tolerant strains make up 10 per cent of France’s sunflower and several hundred hectares of rapeseed.

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