Will France’s decision to ban certain rapeseed set a trend?

France intends to implement a ruling which will mean that the country no longer imports or grows rapeseed such as Clearfield herbicide resistant varieties.

In February of this year, the French Council of State, or the French Supreme Court, made a ruling based on the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ’s) decision to class gene-edited crops in the same way as genetically modified organisms.

The ECJ ruling is currently being reviewed and a report is to be published at the request of the European Council next year.

France ruled that the country would de-list in-vitro random mutagenesis with chemical or physical agents.

The decision will see Clearfield herbicide resistant varieties of rapeseed banned and there is a zero-tolerance policy on any contamination from these varieties.

The Foreign Agricultural Service in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a report on June 9 in which it stated: “It will negatively impact rapeseed and seed exports from Canada, other EU countries and South America to France.

“If France determines additional measures are needed to implement the ECJ decision, US agricultural exports for products developed using NBTs could be negatively impacted as well.”

Due to be implemented by August 7

The decision is to be implemented in France by August 7, 2020. However, before this date the country must hold a public debate, review the rule through France’s high council for Biotechnology and complete an EU Technical Regulation Information System consultation.

French farmers may very well be planting rapeseed before the decision is passed and it is understood that any crops that are planted before the ruling is passed would be allowed to carry through to harvest.

Approximately 1.1 million hectares of oilseed rape were grown in France in 2020 and approximately 10,000ha of this area was planted to Clearfield varieties. However, herbicide resistant sunflowers and chicory were exempt from the ruling according to the USDA’s report.

European study on new genomic techniques

At the adoption of the European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy in May, Commissioner Stella Kyriadides commented on a study on new genomic techniques requested by the council.

“This study will be providing us with a great opportunity to assess the status of these techniques, in particular in view of the 2018 ECJ ruling.

“We will wait for the outcome of this study. Any potential action or changing of policy on this will be only after the study is finalised, which we see as being around 2021,” she added.

In July 2018, the ECJ ruled that gene-edited crops should be regulated in the same way as conventionally genetically modified organisms (GMOs).