NOTE: Fantastic news for Europe. Limagrain is one of the world's biggest seed companies and its chairman, Pierre Pagesse, won notoriety for 2 things - foolishly betting Limagrain's shirt on GM, in the teeth of public concern, and leading violent confrontations with GM crop protesters.
Limagrain moves GM tests to the US due French ban
By Sybille de La Hamaide Reuters, February 28 2008
PARIS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Europe's largest seed cooperative Limagrain said on Thursday it had moved its research tests into genetically modified (GM) crops to the United States, put off by France's hostility to GMs and the destruction of test fields.
Chairman Pierre Pagesse said Biogemma, Limagrain's grain and oilseed research unit, would carry around 1,000 tests on GM crops this year in Illinois, in the U.S. corn belt.
Limagrain has a 70 percent stake in the world's fourth-largest seed maker Vilmorin.
'We have decided to transfer our tests to the United States this year,' Pagesse told Reuters in an interview at the Paris farm show.
'It is with a heavy heart,' he added. 'For the first time we will move outside France and even outside the European Union to carry out our tests and this due to the current situation in our country,' Pagesse said.
While GM crops are common in the United States, France and other European countries are dubious about using the new genetic technology in agriculture.
France decided in December to suspend the cultivation of the sole GM crop grown in the European Union, a maize developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, and notified the European Commission earlier this month that it was extending the ban.
Pagesse said the expatriation of the GM tests to the United States, was also prompted by the repetitive attacks carried out by anti-GM activists on Biogemma's test fields.
The decision, although not irreversible, will inevitably affect the working of Limagrain, which owns 55 percent of Biogemma and totally relies on the company for its GM research, he said.
'I know that to move the intellectual part of the group is to move the group's epicentre in time,' he said, stressing that the company had probably waited too long to make the move.
Limagrain would keep doing non-GM tests in France but all biotech research, carried out through Biogemma, would be done in the United States, which in the end could penalise Europe as seeds may not be adapted to European soil and pests, he said.
'The company keeps its knowledge butit's the French peasants who are going to lose out,' he said.
Pagesse argued there was a contradiction between the French ban on the growing of GM maize and massively importing genetically modified animal feed.
'Either it is bad and we should hurry banning imports or we consider that it's good for consumers, including through animal feed, then we should let French farmers use the technologies that we think are better adapted,' he said.
A government-appointed committee of scientists, farmers, politicians and non-governmental organisations said in January 'serious doubts' remained over whether the MON 810 was safe.
The main worry mentioned in the report, which triggered the government's decision on the ban, concerned dissemination to other crops and biodiversity, not human health.
(Editing by Chris Johnson)