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UMP rebellion rejects GM bill

A revolt by one third of governing party sees controversial bill on GM crop testing thrown out by one vote.

The government has suffered a setback to plans to allow limited testing of GM crops in France after its own bill was defeated by one vote.

A defeat came after one third of the ruling UMP party voted with the opposition.

Anti-GM campaigners who were protesting outside the National Assembly cheered at the news.

Anti-globalisation activist Jose Bové, who has been jailed several times for ripping up GM crops, called it a "historic victory".

"This is a collective victory for the citizens of this country who refuse GMOs (genetically-modified organisms). The government will not be able to do anything it wants after this," said Bové.

Critics have attacked the legislation for lacking sufficient safeguards to protect conventional crops from possible contamination from GM crops.

They also attacked components of the bill which would have made ripping up GM crops a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in jail.

Among Sarkozy’s party those who voted against the bill said the text gave too much power to environmentalists by making it compulsory to publicly disclose any GM field under cultivation.

Green party deputy Noël Mamère said the National Assembly vote was "a fine lesson for the government and for Nicolas Sarkozy", while Greenpeace said it was "happy" the text had been voted out.

Prime Minister François Fillon said the text would be submitted to a new vote in both the lower-house National Assembly and the supper house Senate, and that a bi-partisan committee would meet Wednesday to start studying the text.

Reflecting widespread public hostility to GM crops in France, the government in February banned the only strain of genetically-modified corn currently grown in France, MON810, produced by the US agribusiness giant Monsanto.

GM crops cover less than one percent of farmland in France, Europe's top agricultural producer.

Photo: Flickr/Shareski

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