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Posted by: DR. RAUPP (IP Logged)
Date: December 06, 2004 09:55AM ;

Opposition and farmers say green biotechnology regulations make agricultural
genetic engineering impossible, December 2004 by Kristina Merkner.

A new law that takes effect next year will allow farmers to cultivate
genetically modified organisms on German fields. A victory for farmers
against Greenpeace, it seems. But farmers and plant breeders are not happy
about the new law, which they say will actually keep farmers from exploiting
the potential of gene splicing.

?In essential aspects, the law bears the handwriting of the Green coalition
partner,? said the managing director of Germany's association of plant
breeders (BDP), Ferdinand Schmitz, referring to the Green party. ?Its goal
is to prevent genetic engineering. It's another setback for Germany as an
innovative business location,? Schmitz said.

The law on genetic engineering in agriculture, which parliament passed last
Friday, was drafted by Agriculture Minister Renate Künast of the Green
party. On paper, it allows the commercial cultivation of genetically
modified organisms. In practice, however, little will change, since the
risks to farmers are too high.

The law, which will take effect in January, entitles conventional farmers to
claim compensation if their crops are contaminated by genetically modified

Contamination takes place when conventional plants are pollinated from
genetically modified crops in a nearby field. If the culprit cannot be
identified, all non-conventional farmers in the area will be held liable.
Since cross-pollination cannot be ruled out even if minimum distances are
adhered to, the German Farmers' Association (DBV) fears that the regulations
will keep German farmers from experimenting with genetically modified

Genetically modified crops, which are resistant to herbicides, are common in
other countries such as Argentina and the United States, where one-third of
all corn crops are genetically modified. The only EU country that has
already introduced commercial gene splicing is Spain, where around 20,000
hectares of modified corn are being cultivated.

In Germany, 60 percent of DBV's farmers have now said in a survey that the
liability risk will keep them from cultivating genetically modified plants.
At the same time, two-thirds of them said gene splicing was necessary to
remain competitive. ?As a consequence of the law, research and development
activities will not be undertaken, which are necessary to examine the
opportunities and risks of green biotechnology without prejudice,? said DBV
president Gerd Sonnleitner.

While the law was being drafted, he had suggested that farmers could not be
held liable if they adhered to certain security standards and that
conventional farmers would in such cases be compensated out of a common fund
maintained by all farmers and plant breeders.

Schmitz said that German farmers will earn between ?30 and ?50 less per
hectare if they stick to conventional plants. ?There is also reason to fear
that research and development activities will be relocated abroad.?

Similar concerns had been voiced in the Bundesrat, the German parliamentary
chamber representing the federal states. Baden-Württemberg's state premier,
Erwin Teufel, called the law a ?de-facto ban? on green biotechnology. The
Bundesrat parliamentary chamber of state representatives also criticized the
law, which aims to fulfill an EU directive calling for clear rules on the
coexistence of genetically modified and conventional crops. The opposition
Christian Democrats, which control the Bundesrat, said the government
clearly overshot the mark since the law prevents rather than enables the
coexistence of conventional and genetically modified crops in Germany.

But on Friday, the German parliament overturned the Bundesrat's decision to
reject the law. Since the law does not directly concern the federal states,
the Bundestag parliament was able to pass it without the consent of the
Bundesrat. The federal state of Saxony-Anhalt has already said that it would
take the law to the constitutional court, and the EU commission has voiced
doubts that the law is in keeping with the underlying directive. A ray of
hope for Schmitz, who is ?confident that the last word on the law on genetic
engineering has not been spoken.?


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