The former United States ambassador to France suggested "moving to retaliation" against France and the European Union (EU) in late 2007 to fight a French ban on Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) corn and changes in European policy toward biotech crops, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks on Sunday.
Former Ambassador Craig Stapleton was concerned about France's decision to suspend cultivation of Monsanto's MON-810 corn and warned that a new French environmental review standard could spread anti-biotech policy across the EU.
"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits," Stapleton wrote to diplomatic colleagues.
President George W. Bush appointed Stapleton as ambassador to France in 2005, and in 2009, Stapleton left the office and became an owner of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Bush and Stapleton co-owned the Texas Rangers during the 1990s.
Monsanto is based in St. Louis.
The EU's 1998 approval of MON-810 corn has since expired. In recent years, several European countries joined France in banning MON-810 and similar biotech crops while the products are reassessed in light of research showing they could harm the environment and human health.
It is not clear if Stapleton's retaliation scheme was ever implemented.
"In our view, Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the Commission ... Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices," Stapleton wrote.
MON-810 is engineered to excrete the Bt toxin, which is poisonous to some insect pests. A stacked version of MON-810 is also engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide first popularized by Monsanto under the brand name Roundup.
The debate in France over Monsanto's GM products has grown ugly in recent years.
A recent Truthout report detailed the story of Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, a scientist at the University of Caen in France. Seralini's supporters claim the scientist has faced intimidation from within the French scientific community after he published several studies showing Monsanto GM corn and glyphosate posed risks to human health.