July 15, 2012
USDA/FAS GAIN report FR 9096
This report describes the trade, production, research, policy, and marketing issues of genetically engineered plant and animal products in France. Hostility remains towards biotechnology among policy makers, the public opinion, and non-governmental organizations. Farming groups and scientists are increasingly vocal about the need to adopt the technology to make French agriculture both more productive and sustainable. Reported stagnation of crop yields, combined with massive use of crop protection chemicals, high costs of production, and reduced exports, all converge to a more sustainable intensification of agriculture. Biotechnology is part of the answer to meeting both domestic demand and export needs in an ever-growing world population.
Section I. Executive Summary
As a leading agricultural producer and exporter in the European Union (EU), France remains highly influential in agricultural policy both within the EU and globally, including francophone countries, and major trading partners. The seminars sponsored by FAS/Paris have conveyed to French policy makers, industry stakeholders and education and research institutions that biotechnology can help address global food security while increasing agricultural sustainability.
French agriculture is competitive and intensive, compared to the EU average, and would logically adopt biotechnology in the same line. Many experts, however, point that agriculture’s competitiveness is in jeopardy as long as biotechnology is not adopted. For example, wheat yields are reportedly stagnating and corn yields marginally increasing. While France is increasingly sensitive to sustainability, and is taking a series of measures to make its agriculture systems more sustainable, plant biotechnology is not a tool considered by the government to address this issue.
France adopted biotech products whenever they presented economic advantage- Bt corn cultivation boomed in the years it was allowed. Millions of metric tons (MT) of soybean products are imported from the Americas every year and dozens of MT of Dried Distillers Grains (DDGs) were imported from the United States last year. In each case, the adoption of biotech products was countered by regulatory constraints, not economic factors: The 2008 national ban on MON810 stopped Bt corn cultivation. The animal feed industry stopped importing DDGs from the United States in 2012, due to the potential presence of a biotech event not approved in the European Union. France’s imports of U.S. soybeans have significantly declined in the first quarter of 2012, as a result of the implementation of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive restricting soybean oil used to process biodiesel.
Despite regulatory hostility and pressure by environmentalists, France’s research in plant biotechnology remains active. The National Research Institute in Agriculture (INRA) plays a key role in EU research projects. INRA uses a number of New Plant Breeding Techniques that belong to plant biotechnology but differ from transgenesis. In addition, the farmers-funded applied research institute, Arvalis, coordinates several programs involving biotechnology. France is the leading producer of plantings seeds in the EU, with a strong, diverse and active seed industry which continues to invest in the technology.
GE animals are used in public research, mainly for veterinary applications. No biotech animal is commercialized.