b'In addition, the French government was asked to take theUNCERTAINTIES MOUNT IN FRENCH VALUE CHAINnecessary measures to assess the risks associated to herbi- While the draft decree also provides some transitional measures cide tolerant varieties, following the recommendations of thefor the cultivation and harvesting of the 2020 crop which was French safety agency ANSES. The appropriate growing condi- sown or planted before the decree comes into force, uncertainties tions for those varieties should then be notified to the Europeanbegin to mount in the French value chain. No specific provisions Commission as a consequence of the procedure laid down inare made regarding the steps following harvest, until oilseed Article 16(2) of the common catalogue Directive 2002/53/EC. crushing and rapeseed meal making. This brings legal uncer-tainty to all economic operators among the agri-food value chain. THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT INTERPRETS THEAs the national seed association, Union Franaise des DECISION OF THE CONSEIL DETAT AND NOTIFIESSemenciers (UFS) initiated a collective action with 28 other THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION national partners to demonstrate that the draft decree will Bound by strict deadlines set by the Conseil dEtat decision, theimpact not only seed companies but also agricultural and food French government followed-up and released on May 6, 2020,chains. They mainly raise their concerns about the paradigm a draft decree amending the list of techniques for obtainingshift which could also lead to a new situation of low-level GMO genetically modified organisms traditionally used without anypresence in seeds, food and feed. This collective continues to be noted drawbacks on public health and the environment.vocal towards the recently appointed French government, taking The draft decree, which refers to genetic modification tech- into account the outcome of the TRIS notification procedure at niques mentioned in the French Environment Code, specifiesEU level.mutagenesis techniques to be exempted from the scope of the regulations relating to GMOs in France, with the exception of in vitro random mutagenesis consisting in subjecting plant cells cultivated in vitro to chemical or physical mutagenic agents.As a consequence, France also released two draft orders i) to delete from the French catalogue the listing of 7 Clearfield rapeseed varieties resulting from in vitro mutagenesis, and ii) toThe stacking of so many list 96 Clearfield rapeseed varieties, listed in the EU Commoninterpretations clearly shows Catalogue, that will be banned for cultivation in France after the decree enters into force. how ambiguous and imprecise Being susceptible to affect the free movement of seeds and products within the EU, France notified their draft decree andthe existing text of the GMO subsequent orders to the European Commission, under the spe- Directive 2001/18/CE is.cific and mandatory TRIS tool. For more details, please refer to Petra Jorasch paper EU must stop French interpretation of mutagenesis plant breeding and preserve common market for seed, elsewhere in this issue.On the way to the final adoption of their draft decree, France therefore also referred to the High Council for Biotechnology (HCB) and opened a public consultation for the modification of the Environment Code. While the consultation is still to be held,URGENCY TO REVIEW DIR. 2001/18, AN OBSOLETE the HCB released its opinions mid-July. REGULATION WHICH IGNORES THE CURRENT STATE OF KNOWLEDGETHE HIGH COUNCIL FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY GOESThe stacking of so many interpretations clearly shows how BACK TO INTERPRET THE EU DIRECTIVE ambiguous and imprecise the existing text of the GMO Directive As stated above, the Conseil dEtat had called upon the HCB to2001/18/CE is. In addition, the directive doesnt contain provi-provide advice on a possible classification of mutagenesis tech- sions of its own updating as regards the current state of scientific niques. Nevertheless, the French government only referred toknowledge.the HCB on the restrictive text of the draft decree, focusing onMoreover, the French case described above shows its fur-random in vitro mutagenesis alone.ther implementation may lead to a non-harmonized EU regula-The scientific advice of the HCB clearly states it does nottory framework where member states may potentially use their identify biochemical differences between the mutations, whetherleeway to require additional conditions for marketing products they are obtained by random mutagenesis in vitro, in vivo, orthat were so far exempted from the obligations of the GMO spontaneously. Only their probability of appearance and theirDirective. It clearly has negative impacts for the internal market selection easiness vary.as well as the international one.The socioeconomic committee of the HCB concentrated onUFS with 28 other national partners definitely consider the legal question whether the draft decree allows the applica- this obsolete regulation must be revised as soon as the EU tion of the decision of the Conseil dEtat and the ruling of ECJ.Commission has completed its ongoing study on New genomic It criticizes the shortcomings in the draft decree as not estab- Techniques by April 2021.lishing a precise list of techniques of mutagenesis traditionally used for various applications and for which safety is proven forEditors Note: Emmanuel Lesprit is Head of the Plant a long time, as requested by the Conseil dEtat. Breeding Unit at the Union Franaise des Semenciers (UFS).EUROPEAN-SEED.COMIEUROPEAN SEED I 23'