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Checkbiotech: German bill lays down strict rules for 'genetic' crops
Posted by: DR. RAUPP & madora (IP Logged)
Date: November 28, 2004 04:39PM ;

A German bill on genetic engineering likely to be approved by parliament
today could have dramatic implications for the country's biotechnology
sector, industry representatives warned, November 2004 by Bertrand Benoit in
Berlin and Bettina Wassener in Leverkusen .

The bill, which has received a warm welcome from environmentalists, sets
some of the strictest rules in Europe for the cultivation of genetically
modified crops.

"This will have catastrophic consequences," Heinrich Cuypers, managing
director of BioConValley, a federation of north German biotech companies,
told the Financial Times. "It will set the use of biotechnology in
agriculture years back."

Under the bill, expected to secure a broad majority in the lower house,
growers of genetically modified crops will become directly liable for damage
to surrounding fields.

The bill also imposes strict safety measures on GM growers, such as
surrounding their fields with hedges made of non-GM plants to prevent
cross-pollination of crops. In addition, all land earmarked for commercial
or experimental GM cultivation will have to be entered in a public register.

Opponents fear the restrictions could discourage cultivation of and research
into GM crops. So does the European Commission, which expressed objections
to earlier versions of the bill. A spokeswoman said the Commission had yet
to see a final version.

"The law just makes it too risky to grow GM crops," Arno Krotzky, chief
executive of the Berlin-based biotech company Metanomics, told the FT. "We
are making the same mistake we made in the 1980s when we banned production
of insulin. The pharmaceutical industry has yet to recover."

The law comes at a sensitive time for Germany's once thriving biotechnology
sector, which has barely begun to recover from three years of crisis since
the stock market crash of 2000.

Friedrich Berschauer, head of Bayer CropScience, the pharmaceutical group's
agricultural arm, said: "There will be a clear negative impact for Germany.
If research capabilities leave as a result, if we miss the opportunity, we
will never get it back."

Henning Strodthoff of Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, defended
the bill. "If GM and other crops must coexist, then there should be strict
rules to protect conventional growers," he said.


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