GENET archive


6-Regulation: German State to sue government over GM laws as industry meets

   "'Our federal constitution guarantees freedom of research and freedom
    of entrepreneurship,' said Jens Katzek, the head of Bio Mitteldeutsch-
    land GmbH, which promotes the interests of the biotech industry in
    the state, an agricultural area that had 21 percent unemployment in
    February. [...] 'Argentina was almost bankrupt a couple of years ago
    and they've been able to benefit from investment,' Katzek said.
    'We want this positive economic impact too.'"
                                                  Bloomberg, 11 Apr 2005

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  German State to Sue Government Over GM Laws as Industry Meets
SOURCE: Bloomberg, USA, by Carey Sargent
DATE:   11 Apr 2005

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German State to Sue Government Over GM Laws as Industry Meets

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Sachsen-Anhalt, one of Germany's poorest states,
plans to sue Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government, alleging that new
laws stop companies such as Syngenta AG from doing local research into
genetically-modified crops.

The federal government last year passed legislation letting farmers claim
damages if their non-GM crop is cross-pollinated by GM crops grown
nearby. Opponents say the law is vague, making the risk of liability so
high that companies can't carry out trials.

"Our federal constitution guarantees freedom of research and freedom of
entrepreneurship," said Jens Katzek, the head of Bio Mitteldeutschland
GmbH, which promotes the interests of the biotech industry in the state,
an agricultural area that had 21 percent unemployment in February. "If
you make a law that makes it impossible to apply a technology, that
violates both."

Syngenta, based in Basel, Switzerland, has suspended German field trials
and consolidated its biotech research in the U.S., partly because of
public resistance and restrictive laws in Europe. The EU has been slower
to embrace biotechnology in farming than the U.S., and among the bloc's
25 members, only Spain grows genetically altered crops on a commercial basis.

"We want to do research where the market for the products is," said
Markus Payer, spokesman for Syngenta, the world's biggest maker of crop

The lawsuit will be filed tomorrow, according to Jeannine Kallert, a
spokeswoman for Sachsen-Anhalt's economic affairs ministry. That's also
the first day of the BioVision World Life Sciences Forum, a meeting of
executives including DuPont Co.'s Charles Holliday, protest groups and
policy makers. Katzek says he'll use the forum to argue for a loosening
of the laws.

The federal government expects the suit to be dismissed, said Marie-Luise
Dittmar, a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection,
Food and Agriculture by telephone.

'Strength in the Sector'

"We want to stand up and say what we think," Katzek said. "The opposition
is always standing up and saying they don't want it. Our region has
strength in the sector and we want it."

Sachsen-Anhalt, located in the former East Germany, is home to the
Federal Center of Breeding Research on Cultivated Plants and the Leibniz
Institutes of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research. The region had a
gross domestic product of 44.2 billion euros ($57 billion) in 2003,
compared with a GDP of more than 10 times that in Nordrhein-Westfalen,
Germany's richest state.

"Argentina was almost bankrupt a couple of years ago and they've been
able to benefit from investment," Katzek said. "We want this positive
economic impact too."

Biotech crops range from grain to tomatoes whose genetic material has
been altered to add traits such as resistance to weed-killing chemicals.

Expanding Market

They were grown by about 8.25 million farmers last year, up from 7
million farmers in 18 countries in 2003, the International Service for
the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications said in February. Sales rose
15 percent to $4.7 billion, according to the service. Spain grew 0.1
million hectares of biotech crops in 2004, compared with 47.6 million
hectares in the U.S. and 16.2 million hectares in Argentina. A hectare is
a unit of area equal to 10,000 square meters (32,800 square feet).

Opponents are concerned that the genetically modified products may cause
health problems, or cross into other plants, making weeds that are
resistant to herbicides.

The EU is trying to speed approvals of GM crops after last year ending a
six-year moratorium on biotech food approval. Products certified as safe
by the EU still must be endorsed by individual member countries or
approved by the region's executive arm, the European Commission.

Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer AG, the world's second-biggest maker of
agricultural chemicals, said April 1 the plans probably won't bring more
products to market because of political opposition.

Legal Claims

German law says farmers can claim damages if their non-GM crop is
contaminated and they are either unable to sell it or have to sell it for
less than the full value. The law says that all neighboring farmers can
be held liable if it's not clear where the contamination came from. It
also requires a publicly available register that will show where GM crops
are cultivated.

"They put so many additional burdens on the EU directive that from a
practical point of view the law is prohibiting plant biotechnology,"
Katzek said. "A farmer growing GM crops may have followed the rules and
good farming practices, but he has to prove that he's absolutely
innocent, which is of course impossible."

WTO Complaints

The U.S., Argentina and Canada, the world's three biggest growers of GM
seeds, have complained to the World Trade Organization about the EU's
restrictions. The U.S. said in May it wanted applications to move
"routinely through the approval process."

The European Commission, the 25-nation EU's executive arm, last year
forced through approvals of a Monsanto Co. corn for feed and food as well
as a corn for food made by Syngenta -- the bloc's only biotech
endorsements since 1998. The three approvals followed divisions among EU
countries that persisted after scientific backing for the products.

The EU used its moratorium to tighten labeling rules for the products and
dozens more applications are pending in the EU following the three
approvals last year.

In speeches and forums at this week's conference in Lyon, France, chief
executives from a range of life science companies, including drugmakers
AstraZeneca Plc, Sanofi-Aventis SA and Johnson & Johnson, will warn
against tighter controls they say hurt their business, and try to
convince skeptics of the benefits the industry generates.

-- With reporting by Jonathan Stearns and Duncan Hooper in Brussels, Jack
Kaskey in Princeton and Claudia Rach in Berlin. Editor: Elser

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Saxony-Anhalt plans to file suit on GM crops law
SOURCE: Deutsche Presseagentur / Expatica
DATE:   29 Mar 2005

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Saxony-Anhalt plans to file suit on GM crops law

MAGDEBURG - The eastern German state of Saxony- Anhalt is preparing a
constitutional challenge against the first federal law setting the rules
on genetic engineering of food plants, a state government official said
on Monday.

A spokeswoman for state Economics Minister Horst Rehberger said the legal
suit is expected to be filed in April to challenge the bio- engineering
law which passed the German parliament in Berlin in November 2004.

She said that Rehberger regards the federal law as an obstacle to genetic
engineering and violates farmers' rights to plant genetically-altered
varieties which have already been approved.

The minister also believes the law violates European Union regulations
which permit the planting of conventional and genetically-altered crops
next to each other, the spokeswoman said.

According to the law passed by the German parliament, a key passage holds
farmers completely liable for any genetic contamination which can arise
from the cross-fertilisation between conventional and altered crops due
to pollen carried by the wind.

According to a lobby group called InnoPlanta, German farmers this year
will be planting much more genetically-altered maize, with some 50
farmers and institutions registering 1,000 hectares of land for
cultivation. The maize was genetically altered to improve its resistance
to the European corn borer insect.

Last year, in the first test in Germany involving larger fields, some 29
sites combining 300 hectares of land were cultivated with the
genetically-engineered maize. Scientists concluded that bio- engineered
maize and conventional maize cannot cross-fertilise, if the crops are
kept at least 20 metres apart.

Most of those test sites were kept secret from the public to avert
possible attacks by groups opposed to bio-engineering food crops.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Genetically Modified Crops: Safety Research Falls Foul of German
SOURCE: Science 307 (5716), p.1706, by Gretchen Vogel
        posted by AgBioView, USA
DATE:   18 Mar 2005

------------------- archive: -------------------

Genetically Modified Crops: Safety Research Falls Foul of German Politics

Berlin -- Researchers at two government-funded labs in Germany have had
to withdraw from projects involving the safety of genetically modified
(GM) plants after their bosses, officials in the agriculture ministry,
said the work was inappropriate. The ban came despite the fact that the
projects won funding from another government department--the ministry of
research and education--in a nationwide competition for projects studying
GM plant safety.

The showdown is the latest example of political hostility toward GM
research in Germany, says Joerg Hacker of the University of Würzburg, a
vice president of the federal research agency DFG. Even so, he says, the
cancellation of specific projects is unprecedented: "To my knowledge,
it's the first time such a thing has happened." The projects involved
"one of the core concerns of the ministry," he adds, to improve the
safety of GM plants.

Agriculture and consumer protection minister Renate Kuenast, a Green
Party member of the left-leaning governing coalition and the researchers'
ultimate boss, is openly skeptical of gene technology. Last year, her
ministry proposed a law that holds anyone who plants GM crops financially
liable if neighboring fields are contaminated with genetically altered
pollen. Scientists have complained that the law, which received final
approval from the Bundestag in December, essentially prevents all field
research with GM plants (Science, 25 June 2004, p. 1887).

The researchers leading the projects, Joachim Schiemann of the Institute
for Plant Virology, Microbiology, and Biosafety in Braunschweig and
Reinhardt Toepfer of the Federal Center for Cultivated Plant Breeding
Research in Siebeldingen, hoped to optimize a method for removing
antibiotic-resistance genes from GM plants. During the genetic alteration
process, antibiotic-resistance genes are commonly introduced as markers.
Their presence in GM plants is often cited by opponents of the technology
as a potential danger to consumers and the environment. A spokesperson
for the agricultural ministry says the projects could lead to products
that would later need to be evaluated by the institutes in question, and
the ministry acted to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

The researchers were not available for comment, but a member of
Schiemann's consortium, Inge Broer of the University of Rostock, says the
research will go on. Her group will take over the project, she says, "but
we have enough other work to do. It would be better if the [agriculture
ministry] researchers did it themselves." If the government hopes to
properly assess the safety of GM crops, she says, they will need
qualified experts in the field.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
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