France is to use a new European opt-out scheme to ensure a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in the country remains in place, it said on Thursday.

The European Union's largest grain grower and exporter has asked the European Commission, the EU executive, for France to be excluded from some GM maize crop cultivation under the new scheme, the farm and environment ministries said in a joint statement.

The French environment ministry said separately it had passed legislation in the National Assembly to oppose cultivation of GM crops on the basis of certain criteria including environment and farm policy, land use, economic impact or civil order.

Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops have divided opinion in Europe. France had already banned cultivation of U.S. group Monsanto's GM maize saying it had serious doubts it was safe for the environment.

Monsanto says its maize is harmless to humans and wildlife.

The EU opt-out, agreed in March, allows individual countries to seek exclusion from any approval request for GM cultivation in the 28-member bloc or varieties already cleared as safe by the EU.

The French request concerns nine GM maize strains, the ministries said. They did not say which ones.

Monsanto's MON810 maize (corn) is the only GM crop grown in Europe, where it has been cultivated in Spain and Portugal for a decade, but other maize crops are in the process of being approved at EU level.

One of them is an insect-resistant maize known as 1507, whose developers DuPont and Dow Chemical have been waiting 14 years for the EU executive to authorise its cultivation in the bloc.

Germany also intends to make use of the new EU rules to stop the growing of GM crops.

The European Commission is responsible for approvals, but under the new rules requests for opt-outs also have to be submitted to the company making the application.

Monsanto has said it would abide by requests from Latvia and Greece to be excluded from its application to grow a GM crop in the EU but accused them of ignoring science.