French seed company backs away from plan to field test GM corn

Reuters / French seed company Vilmorin & Cie SA has dropped plans to conduct field tests of genetically modified crops next year because debate over the technology remains too highly charged.

“The political climate led us to put the question on hold for now,” said Daniel Jacquemond, the company’s finance director. “We don’t want to be provocative.”

A study published last month by French researchers that raised health concerns about a type of maize (corn) made by Monsanto reignited controversy in France, where opposition to the technology is fierce and commercial planting of GM crops is banned.

Vilmorin did not comment on the study, but argued GM crops were necessary to support agricultural production.

“These are absolutely essential components for the competitiveness of agriculture including Europe,” said Jacquemond.

Vilmorin, controlled by French farm co-operative Limagrain, has in the past carried out open-field tests of GM plants in France, but stopped such work after protesters ransacked test sites.

It is continuing field trials in three other European Union countries, notably in Spain, which is the largest grower of GM maize in the 27-member EU.

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