Checkbiotech: Germany to promote renewables, curb GM use
Posted by: DR. RAUPP & madora
Date: June 21, 2004 12:35PM
www.czu.cz/vyzkum/publikace/ Manfred G.Raupp; www.raupp.info
BERLIN - To the applause of environmentalists, the German Bundestag
parliament Friday passed two wide-reaching bills on promoting renewable
energy sources and on restricting the sowing of genetically modified
crops. Thursday, 18 June 2004
The renewable energy bill sailed through parliament after a compromise
committee was able to reach agreement late Thursday on watered-down
wording amenable to moderates and conservatives, who control the Bundesrat
upper house of parliament.
Now assured of Bundesrat approval, the law could go into effect 1 August,
offering federal funding to promote development of solar, wind,
hydro-electric and other renewable energy sources.
However, critics said the bill was watered down to the extent that
wind-power projects in flat coastal regions will be given
priority over those in hilly regions of central and southern Germany,
where most Germans live.
Earlier, Germany's centre-left coalition government pushed stiff new
restrictions on genetically-modified crops through parliament over
opposition from conservatives.
The legislation, introduced by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social
Democrats and their Greens coalition partners, makes farmers who use
genetically modified grain liable for any cross-pollination of adjacent
The law is aimed at ensuring that non-GM fields remain free of genetic
But the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Bundesrat upper house of
parliament which is dominated by conservative Christian Democrats.
In sometimes heated debate in the Bundestag on Friday, conservatives
blasted the legislation as ineffectual and unenforceable. They said it
would hinder efforts to allow GM crop production to go ahead side-by-side
with conventional farming.
Related message from Friday, January 16, 2004 by Kristina Merkner
GMO imports to be allowed in Germany;
Künast presents strict regulations on the cultivation and sale of
genetically modified crops and foods.
After months of negotiations, the German government has agreed to allow
the cultivation and sale of genetically modified crops in Germany.
Calling the bill a great success for consumers and farmers, Renate
Künast, the minister for consumer protection, food and agriculture,
presented the main features of the new law on Monday and said the cabinet
would approve it next month.
Germany, where the pro-environmentalist Greens - Künast's party - are part
of the governing coalition, has long been considered one of the most
skeptical countries toward genetically modified organisms, so-called GM
crops. Künast indicated that the new law could pave the way for more
acceptance of them across the entire European Union, which last month
delayed a decision on lifting its four-year-old moratorium on the
authorization of new GM products for import into the EU, although it has
long allowed some food ingredients containing small concentrations of GM
The German draft fulfills an EU requirement to set clear rules on the
cultivation of GM crops, and stipulates that GM foods sold in Germany must
be clearly labeled. It's in the hands of the consumers what ends up on
their plates, said Künast.
Consumer and environmental associations disagreed. Edda Müller, a board
member of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, was
disappointed that the labeling requirement did not apply to animal feed or
to food served in restaurants, schools and hospitals. This means that
practically 60 percent to 70 percent of food containing GM organisms will
bear no label, she said.
Künast formerly opposed GM crops but was under pressure to compromise with
the Research and Economics ministries. She can, however, claim as
successes the labeling obligation and a regulation whereby farmers whose
conventional crops are contaminated with GM organisms because of
cross-pollination between fields can claim compensation from GM farmers in
Fields on which GM crops are grown will have to be kept at a minimum
distance from fields for conventional crops, but since cross-pollination
cannot be ruled out and is difficult to trace, all GM farmers within a
prescribed distance will be liable if a conventional farmer's crops are
contaminated and can no longer be sold as GM-free.
On other important aspects, though, the minister had to yield. Farmers
will not have to seek authorization for planting GM crops in certain areas
defined as ecologically sensitive - a model supported by Künast. Neither
did the minister succeed in her determination to stop the use of tax money
to develop new GM varieties.
Whether Germany will now offer huge market potential to GM producers is an
open question. Polls show that, unlike in the United States, most
consumers in Europe are skeptical about claims that GM foods pose no risk
to their health or the environment. Said a spokeswoman for the
environmental group Greenpeace, Corinna Hölzel: GM food doesn't stand a
chance on the market.
Farmers might also be deterred from cultivating GM crops because the
proposed compensation rules would make doing so an incalculable risk,
said Gerd Sonnleitner, the president of the German Farmers' Association.