France will call for a ban “at a European level” if the national health agency (Anses) backs up the findings of the study by French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told an audience in the Burgundy city of Dijon on Thursday.
And a communiqué from Agriculture Minister Stéphane Foll, Ecology Minister Delphine Batho and Health Minister Marisol Touraine said that Paris may demand a ban on the import of Monsanto’s NK603 corn, the subject of the tests.
The question will also be taken to the European Union’s Food Safety Agency, which green campaigners have often accused of conflict of interest because several members are alleged to be connected to seed companies.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, found that rats fed on a diet of 33 per cent NK603 corn and others exposed to Roundup, the weedkiller used with it, developed tumours, liver damage and digestive problems.
Premature deaths and sickness were particularly prevalent among females.
While previous studies have usually lasted only about three months, Seralini’s lasted two years, the average rat’s lifespan, and the illnesses developed later in the period covered.
NK603 is a type of corn, or maize, that has been engineered to make it resistant to the herbicide Roundup, which is also manufactured by Monsanto, and is used by farmers to maximise yields.
It can be imported but not grown in Europe.
Only Monsanto's MON810 transgenic corn and BASF's Amflora potato can be grown in the European Union.
France, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Romania have outlawed the growing of MON810 on their territory.
Monsanto said it was “too soon” to comment when the findings were made public but some of Seralini’s colleagues criticised him for working with journalists to ensure that they were covered in the media before his peers had had time to examine them.
Gilles-Eric Seralini, who works at the University of Caen in Normandy, has publicly opposed GM agriculture for some time and often found himself in a minority when he sat on a government committee examining them.