Limagrain says GMO protests could force R+D relocation


Paris | Reuters — Limagrain, the world’s fourth-largest seed maker, will consider moving its research activities out of France if field trials in its home market continue to be sabotaged by opponents of genetically modified crops.

The French co-operative group was targeted last month by protestors who invaded test fields southeast of Paris and scattered non-commercial seed. That was the latest in a series of actions by opponents of gene-editing technology, which they say will herald a new generation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Limagrain said the incident ruined a 37-hectare trial of wheat based on conventional breeding and showed the risk of a repeat of virulent debate over GMOs.

“If we have repetition of this kind of problem, I will be the first to say that we should relocate our research and not conduct it in France,” Jean-Yves Foucault, Limagrain president and one of the farmers who own the co-operative group, told reporters.

Limagrain’s research properties elsewhere include a Canadian cereals research station on the north side of Saskatoon, set up in 2015 and operated in partnership with Canterra Seeds.

A major seed maker through listed subsidiary Vilmorin, Limagrain previously stopped performing GMO field trials in France, where commercial growing of such crops is banned.

The emergence of new breeding techniques has reignited debate over genetic modification in Europe.

So-called gene-editing has been hailed by researchers as a revolutionary tool but has led to fierce arguments over whether gene-edited crops should be treated as GMOs.

Crop developers say such crops should not fall under the European Union’s strict GMO rules because the new technology does not involve the transfer of genes from different species. Critics, meanwhile, say they are GMOs by another name.

The EU has yet to decide how to classify the new techniques.

On Thursday the adviser to the European Court of Justice is due to issue an opinion over whether a breeding method called mutagenesis should fall under GMO regulations.

This would give an indication of the likely ruling to be given by the court in the coming months, which will in turn influence subsequent EU rules on gene-editing.

Reporting for Reuters by Gus Trompiz; additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels. Includes files from Network staff.

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