GENET archive


6-Regulation: Germany shifts biotech policy

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

TITLE:  German Parliament majority agrees on amended GM laws
SOURCE: TransGen, Germany
        German article: Große Mehrheit für Anpassung des Gentechnik-Gesetzes
        translated by Mark Hucko, CheckBioTech, Switzerland
DATE:   17 Feb 2006

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German Parliament majority agrees on amended GM laws

The German Parliament has passed the "Third GM law amendment." All
factions of the German Parliament have voted in favor of the change,
except for the left faction. With the passage of this amendment, Germany
finally falls in line with the accepted EU GM-guidelines.  The last
deadline set by the EU Commission for this amendment expired on February
19. There was the threat of having to pay a daily fine of 792,000
Euros.  This amendment of the law mainly regulates the application
proceedings, processing deadlines and monitoring rules regarding
genetically modified organisms (GMO). The law also elaborates in more
detail the regulations concerning the instruction of the general public
about unintentional release of transgenic organisms. In the future the
responsible authorities are required to inform the public about such
incidents.  This third amendment does not affect the existing
regulations concerning the cultivation of genetically engineered plants,
nor the question of liability for financial losses due to the crossing
of transgenic crops with neighbouring fields.  Before this law comes
into force it hast to be approved by the German Upper Parliament.

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

TITLE:  Germany shifts biotech policy
SOURCE: Biotech Mailout, Friends of the Earth Europe
DATE:   Feb 2006

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Germany shifts biotech policy

Since November 2005, Germany has a new government, a grand coalition
between the Conservatives and the Social Democrats, and a new coalition
contract which announces a major shift in Germanys former biotech
policy. The current German biotech law - in force since February 2005
and part of the implementation of the Deliberate Release Directive
2001/18 - will be amended. The aim of this amendment is to support the
research and use of agro-biotechnology in Germany. It states that: "The
biotech law shall set the framework for further development and use of
biotechnology in all areas of life and economy".

Two concrete points are mentioned: To make the definitions of deliberate
release and placing on the market more precise, and to pave the way for
a compensation fund financed by all economic protagonists (which means
GMO farmers and the seed industry). The compensation fund shall replace
the current liability regime (see Biotech Mailout December 2004).

Definitions of deliberate release and placing on the market

The powerful German pro-GMO scientific community is pushing to delete
the zero tolerance for genetic pollution caused by deliberate releases.
Non-approved GMOs from field trials shall be legally permitted in small,
undefined amounts in the harvest of neighbouring fields and,
subsequently, in the conventional food and feed chain - of course
without labelling. Last year, after a lot of pressure, the former German
Consumer Protection and Agriculture Minister, Renate Künast (Greens),
asked the EU Commission whether that point of view was in accordance
with EU law. The answer from the Commission was that it is not.
Currently, the new government is asking the same question again and
obviously hopes for another, more positive, answer.

Compensation fund

The most controversial part of the biotech law in force is liability.
This compensation scheme for economic damage means that all neighbouring
farmers who might have caused cross-contamination are responsible for
polluted harvests. If there are several GMO growers in a specific area
and it cannot be determined exactly which one caused the damage, the non-
GMO grower is free to decide which neighbour to claim compensation from.
This legal construction will be replaced by a compensation fund.
According to the coalition contract, the government will pave the way
for a compensation fund financed by GMO farmers and the seed industry.
The compensation fund shall grant compensation for non-GMO growers if it
cannot be determined exactly which GMO grower caused the damage.

In the long-term, the government is striving for an insurance-based solution.

The seed industry is currently bombarding the responsible Agriculture
and Consumers Protection Ministry - now led by the conservative
Christian Social Union's Horst Seehofer - with legal expert opinions to
show why the government cannot force them to pay into the fund. The
umbrella organisation of German insurance companies once again stated
that it sees no way to insure economic damage caused by GMOs. The result
is a brand new political constellation.

The Agriculture Minister and the powerful mainstream farmers association
(Deutscher Bauernverband), both of which are very much in favour of
GMOs, are extremely annoyed with Monsanto for not being prepared to pay
into a fund. But the biotech industry is afraid of a precedent. In
Germany, the powerful Federal Association of German Industry
(Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie BDI) is afraid that other
polluting industries, such as the chemical industry, could be forced to
pay for pollution from not clearly defined origins, and world-wide it
would be a real challenge for biotech industry to explain why they pay
compensation to German farmers but not to Canadian, US, Indian etc farmers.

The first negotiations between the government, seed industry, and the
German farmers association are over and a new round started in January
2006, together with insurance companies. Press reports suggest that
industry has proposed to "initially" finance a liability fund.(1) The
question remains: what happens if there are no results? For the
government it is clear - all economic damage suffered by non-GMO farmers
shall be compensated (at least, in theory - at the moment, it is
completely unclear how and whether the fund will work). So far, there
has been no mention of the taxpayer having to pay. Questions to the EU
Commission and negotiations have taken place behind closed doors.

Seehofer attacks organics and praises GMOs

In one of his first public announcements, the new Minister, Horst
Seehofer (who, until 1998, was Health Minister under Helmut Kohl and
already responsible for GMOs) promoted the virtues of GMO crops and
attacked organic farming. The Social Democratic coalition partners
immediately counter-attacked Seehofer and made objections in the media,
stating that the Precautionary Principle, freedom of choice for
consumers and farmers, and coexistence between all kinds of agriculture
are part of the coalition contract. Therefore Seehofer's point of view
is not secured through the coalition contract. Whether there is a
serious disagreement or not is an open question at the moment. But at
their party convention in November, the Social Democrats made clear that
the Precautionary Principle to protect the public, and environment and
consumer interests are much more important than economic interests, and
that they will defend GMO- free agriculture and food production.

According to press reports, the German cabinet approved minor changes at
the beginning of February, and are talking of a two way process. Because
Germany has not yet fully implemented Directive 2001/18, the likely
scenario is that the government and parliament agree to implement part
II very soon (drafted under Künast but refused for ideological reasons
through the former opposition which had the necessary blocking majority
in the responsible second chamber of parliament, the Bundesrat) and take
its time to change part I. The Commission has set a time limit until the
end of March, after that Germany has to pay for non implementation.

In the meantime, Seehofer has given the green light to the first three
types of GM maize ever listed on the German seed register. Since mid-
December, Monsanto's YieldGard (Dc 3421 YG) and Pioneer Hi-Breed's
(PR39V17 and PR38F71) Mon 810 seeds are authorised for general use and
sale to German farmers. This means that 2006 will be the first year of
commercial GMO growing in Germany but likely under the old law.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... news(*)
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