1.GM crop foes march in Germany as U.N. summit starts
2.French activists say "non" to GMO law
3.French Parliament Blocks Bill to Allow Genetically Modified Crops

NOTE: The protests reported in the second article came ahead of the rejection of the bill on GM crops by the French parliament (item 3).
1.GM crop foes march in Germany as U.N. summit starts
Reuters, May 12 2008

BERLIN - About 5,000 activists marched through the German city of Bonn on Monday to protest against genetically modified food at the start of a U.N. conference to discuss risks linked to the technology.

Campaigners, many waving colorful flags and banners with slogans such as "Biofuel Creates Hunger" and "Good Food Instead Of GM Food", walked and danced through the western German city. Some drove tractors and floats.

"We are protesting for biodiversity and against the destruction of nature, against GM, for the protection of biodiversity," activist Amira Busch told Reuters Television.

About 2,000 government and non-governmental officials will attend the five-day U.N. conference in Bonn to discuss global protection measures for the transfer of genetically modified plants, including rice and soya.

The issue has become particularly sensitive due to a recent surge in food prices which has sparked anger and protests in some developing countries.

The experts will try to agree on ways to help implement a U.N. agreement on the trading of living genetically modified organisms called the Cartagena protocol.

In Europe, consumers are fairly skeptical about GM crops but the biotech industry says its products are as safe as non-GM equivalents.

The conference, which starts on Monday, precedes a bigger summit next week on biodiversity in Bonn where some 4,000 international experts and government ministers will try to agree on ways to slow the rate of extinctions.

"We want biodiversity to be part of humanity's wealth and a precondition to overcome hunger," said Greens EU lawmaker Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf who was on the march.

"We demand that all other activities, which probably boost industry's profits, do not endanger food security for future generations," he told Reuters Television. (Reporting by Reuters Television, Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Matthew Jones)
2.French activists say "non" to GMO law
By Geert de Clercq and Sybille de La Hamaide
Reuters, May 13 2008

PARIS - Hundreds of activists marched in Paris on Tuesday ahead of the expected approval of a law they say blurs the line between natural and genetically modified (GM) foods.

The bill lays down conditions for the cultivation of GM crops in France, Europe's largest grain producer and exporter, and creates a body to oversee GMO use. The vote is due to take place late on Tuesday or on Wednesday.
Protesters, some wearing yellow hats in the shape of maize cobs and others dressed in white suits imitating scientists, gathered near the National Assembly to voice their opposition.

"We must give consumers the choice of eating quality products, with or without GMO," said Jean Terlon, cook at the restaurant Le Saint-Pierre in Longjumeau, close to Paris.

While GM crops are common in the United States and Latin America, France and many other European countries are dubious about using the new genetic technology in agriculture.
France banned the sole GM crop grown in the European Union, a maize (corn) developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, in February because it had serious doubts about whether it was safe for the environment. GMO cultivation is still legal, however.
The new French law, which would implement a European Union directive adopted in 2001, sets the rules a farmer has to respect to grow GM crops. These include limiting dissemination of pollen to conventional fields.

The text is criticised by pro-GMOs who say it does not go far enough and by the antis, including deputies of the ruling majority, who say changes made in exchanges between the parliament and the upper house make it too lax.


Approved amendments include a rate of GM dissemination to conventional crops of up to 0.9 percent, a level fiercely contested by ecologists seeking to protect France's biodiversity and organic crops from GM contamination.
"The problem of this law is that it legalises contamination because anything with a GMO content of less than 0.9 percent can be called GMO-free," Romain Chabrol, a spokesman of the environmental group Greenpeace France, said.
The rate in Germany was set at 0.1 percent.

French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the new law would be the "most protective in the world".
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly said he does not want to close the door on the technology or ban research so as to limit the number of biotech companies put off by the destruction of their outdoor experiments by activists.

French cooperative Limagrain, which has a 70 percent stake in the world's fourth-largest seed maker Vilmorin, said this year its research unit Biogemma had moved its tests on GM crops to the United States after repeated attacks on its fields.

Such attacks would be more severely punished under the law. (Editing by Robert Woodward)
3.French Parliament Blocks Bill to Allow Genetically Modified Crops
Voice Of America News, 13 May 2008

The French parliament has thrown out a bill that would have allowed farmers to grow genetically modified crops.

Lawmakers narrowly rejected the bill Tuesday 136 to 135.

Protesters against the bill, some wearing hats shaped like corn cobs, cheered when the results were announced.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon says he plans to submit a new bill to parliament.

Genetically modified crops have had their DNA engineered to make them resistant to disease and pests.

Surveys show many French oppose such foods, saying their safety is still not assured.

In February, France imposed a temporary ban on genetically modified corn approved for sale by the European Union. The corn is produced by the U.S. company Monsanto.