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French maize growers, seedmakers to appeal GMO ban again

PARIS (Reuters) - French farmers and seed firms said they would mount a new challenge to a ban on growing genetically modified maize at the country's top administrative court, saying it was unjustified.

The move on Tuesday comes just three days after France published a decree to prevent the planting of Monsanto's MON810 maize while the government works on changes to domestic and European laws on a longer-term GMO ban.

Paris banned the insect-resistant MON810 maize, the sole GMO authorized for cultivation in the European Union, in 2008, citing environmental risks. The decision was overturned in 2011 on the basis that it was not sufficiently justified.

France banned the maize for a second time in 2012 but the embargo was rejected a year later.

"Since the order is no more legally justified than previous ones, we will ask for it to be simply annulled," Luc Esprit, director of French maize growers group AGPM, told Reuters.

The current Socialist government, like its conservative predecessor, has opposed the growing of GMO crops in light of public suspicion and widespread protests from environmentalists.

"These legal battles are sterile and expensive," UFS, which represents 130 seedmakers with activities in France, said in a statement. "Meanwhile, French and European seedmakers continue to lag behind."

The French farm ministry said it was not surprised by maize growers and seedmakers' decision to appeal its decree.

Dry weather in recent weeks mean French farmers will likely be able to start maize sowings by the end of the month, before April 10 when the government is due to submit a new proposal for a law banning all GM maize crops after the Senate in a surprise move, rejected the previous one in February.

In addition to a request that the decree be annulled, the AGPM will seek a suspension of the ban, which could be taken rapidly. However, if any, there would only be little GMO maize sown in France this year, Esprit said.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by David Evans)

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