Give us your poor, your tired, your genetic modification experiments

A French biotechnology company moves its research to the U.S., citing domestic issues. As in, France hates Monsanto.

By Andrew Leonard
Published March 5, 2008 5:51PM (EST)

Here's a new global economy niche for Midwestern states devastated by offshoring jobs: They can offer themselves up as testbeds for new genetically modified organisms developed by foreign biotech companies who have been driven out of their home markets by anti-GMO protests.

On Feb. 29, the chairman of Limagrain, Europe's largest seed cooperative, told Reuters that the company was moving its research tests on genetically modified organisms to the United States. Chairman Pierre Pagesse, reported Reuters, "said Biogemma, Limagrain's grain and oilseed research unit, would carry around 1,000 tests on GM crops this year in Illinois, in the U.S. corn belt." (Thanks to GMOPundit for the link.)

Pagesse cited two reasons for the decision. In early February the French Parliament, heeding the virulently anti-GM sentiments of French citizens, formally requested that the European Union allow it to ban the commercial use of MON 810, a genetically modified strain of corn made by Monsanto. Additionally, "the expatriation of the GM tests to the United States," reports Reuters, "was also prompted by the repetitive attacks carried out by anti-GM activists on Biogemma's test fields."

MON 810 is better known in the United States as YieldGard, long one of Monsanto's flagship corn seed varieties, designed with a built-in pesticide that targets the dreaded European corn borer. In the U.S. the climate for YieldGard and even fancier triple stacked hybrids is a bit friendlier than in France. U.S. farmers are even eligible for crop insurance discounts, approved by the U.S. government, if they can prove they've planted enough biotech corn.

For Monsanto, the French attempt to squash MON 810 is no doubt annoying, but hardly threatening. The U.S. corn boom is contributing to strong profits, and in the global GM market, you're going to win some and you're going to lose some.

France says goodbye to MON 810? Brazil says hello.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Biotechnology France Globalization How The World Works Monsanto