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[genet-news] GMO-FREE REGIONS & REGULATION: Monsanto Uprooted: Germany bans cultivation of MON810 GM corn

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Der Spiegel, Germany



DATE:   14.04.2009

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Germany has banned the cultivation of GM corn, claiming that MON 810 is dangerous for the environment. But that argument might not stand up in court and Berlin could face fines totalling millions of euros if American multinational Monsanto decides to challenge the prohibition on its seed.

The sowing season may be just around the corner, but this year German farmers will not be planting gentically modified crops: German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday she was banning the cultivation of GM corn in Germany.

Under the new regulations, the cultivation of MON 810, a GM corn produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto, will be prohibited in Germany, as will the sale of its seed. Aigner told reporters Tuesday she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810 posed ?a danger to the environment,? a position which she said the Environment Ministry also supported. In taking the step, Aigner is taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries to impose such bans.

?Contrary to assertions stating otherwise, my decision is not politically motivated,? Aigner said, referring to reports that she had come under pressure to impose a ban from within her party, the conservative Bavaria-based Christian Social Union. She stressed that the ban should be understood as an ?individual case? and not as a statement of principle regarding future policy relating to genetic engineering.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) both welcomed the ban. Greenpeace?s genetic engineering expert, Stephanie Töwe, said the decision was long overdue, explaining that numerous scientific studies demonstrated that GM corn was a danger to the environment.

However the ban could prove costly for the German government. Experts in Aigner?s ministry recently told SPIEGEL that it will be hard to prove conclusively that MON 810 damages the environment, which could enable Monsanto to win a court case opposing the ban and potentially expose the government to ?6-7 million ($7.9-9.2 million) in damages.

Monsanto said Tuesday that it would look into the question of whether it would take legal proceedings as quickly as possible. Andreas Thierfelder, spokesman for Monsanto Germany, said the matter was very urgent as the planting season was just about to start.

Aigner has recently come under pressure from Bavaria to ban GM corn. Bavaria?s Environment Minister Markus Söder wants to turn Germany into a ?GM food-free zone.? Environmental groups have long called for a ban on GM crops in Germany, arguing that they pose a danger to plants and animals.

However, supporters of genetic engineering argue that a ban could prompt research companies and institutes to pull up stakes and leave Germany. Wolfgang Herrmann, president of Munich?s Technical University, has said that a prohibition risks precipitating ?an exodus of researchers.?

The issue has exposed a split between Bavaria?s CSU and its larger sister party, Angela Merkel?s Christian Democratic Union. Katherina Reiche, deputy chairwoman of the CDU/CSU?s parliamentary group, has complained of the ?CSU?s irresponsible, cheap propaganda,? claiming that it could harm German industry. She argued that anti-GM sentiment was one reason a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Bayer decided to moved its facilities for genetic engineering from Potsdam, near Berlin, to Belgium.

MON 810 was approved for cultivation in Europe by the European Union in 1998 and is currently the only GM crop which can be grown in Germany. The plant produces a toxin to fight off a certain pest, the voracious larvae of the corn borer moth. The crop was due to be planted this year on a total area of around 3,600 hectares (8,896 acres) in Germany. The cultivation of MON 810 is already banned in five other EU member states, namely Austria, Hungary, Greece, France and Luxembourg.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR: Brett Neely


DATE:   14.04.2009

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April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Germany outlawed the planting of a strain of genetically modified corn made by Monsanto Co., joining a widening European ban on GM crops that threatens to trigger U.S. trade retaliation.

The German ban applies to Monsanto?s MON810, a pest- resistant corn variety, Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told reporters in Berlin today. Germany joins France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg, all of which have already forbid planting of MON810, she said.

?I have come to the conclusion that there are legitimate grounds to accept that genetically modified corn from the MON810 strain constitutes a danger to the environment,? said Aigner. Andreas Thierfelder, Monsanto?s director of public affairs in Germany, didn?t return calls to his mobile phone.

European Union governments upheld similar Austrian and Hungarian bans last month in a blow to the European Commission, the EU?s regulatory arm, which argued that moves to proscribe the corn were unjustified because scientists have determined the products are safe for consumers and the environment.

The commission declined to say whether it will try to overturn the German ban. The commission will analyze the German move and ?decide on the most appropriate follow-up,? spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau told reporters in Brussels today.

WTO Ruling

In a case brought by the U.S., Canada and Argentina, the World Trade Organization ruled in 2006 that a European Union moratorium on new gene-altered products lasting from 1998 to 2004 was illegal. The U.S. has since voiced concern about continued European market barriers. Under WTO rules, President Barack Obama?s administration has the right to seek retaliatory measures.

The German decision, which comes into effect immediately, is a turnaround from legislation passed in January last year making it easier for farmers to sow genetically altered corn.

Horst Seehofer, who was then agriculture minister, said at the time his decision was meant to help Germany?s biotechnology industry. Yet the legislation passed was criticized by green lobbies as well as Monsanto, which said it failed to remove hurdles for farmers wanting to plant the crop imposed by the previous Social Democrat-led government with the Green Party.

Seehofer quit his post in October to become Bavarian state prime minister and head of the Christian Social Union, Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel?s Christian Democratic Union.

Factual Decision

?My decision is not a political decision, it?s a decision based on the facts,? said Aigner, a member of Seehofer?s CSU. Germany, governed since November 2005 by a coalition of CDU, CSU and Social Democrats, will hold national elections on Sept. 27.

Green lobbies and consumer groups welcomed today?s announcement, citing surveys showing that more than 70 percent of consumers oppose the use of GM crops for food.

?This decision is right, if long overdue,? Stephanie Toewe, Greenpeace spokeswoman on biotechnology, said in a statement. Numerous studies show GM corn to be harmful to the environment, Toewe said, urging Aigner to persuade the EU in Brussels to outlaw similar genetically modified corn varieties.

The German DIB group, which lobbies for biotechnology in industry, condemned Aigner?s decision for ?going against scientifically-based procedure.? DIB member companies ?fear a bitter setback for the state of biotechnology in Germany,? it said in an e-mailed statement.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: Reuters, UK

AUTHOR: Julie Lois


DATE:   14.04.2009

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* GMO maize banned for sowing for this year?s crop

* Decision not fundamental obstacle to GMO crops

* Germany on conflict course with EU Commission

By Michael Hogan and Thorsten Severin

BERLIN/HAMBURG, April 14 (Reuters) - Germany will ban cultivation and sale of genetically modified (GMO) maize despite European Union rulings that the biotech grain is safe, its government said on Tuesday.

The ban affects U.S. biotech company Monsanto?s MON 810 maize which may no longer be sown for this summer?s harvest, German Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner told a news conference.

The move puts Germany alongside France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg which have banned MON 810 maize despite its approval by the EU for commercial use throughout the bloc.

?I have come to the conclusion that there is a justifiable reason to believe that genetically modified maize of the type MON 810 presents a danger to the environment,? Aigner said, stressing the five other EU states have taken the same action.

The decision to ban was based on scientific factors and was not a political one, Aigner said. It was an individual case and not a fundamental decision against GMO crops, she added.

The EU Commission, the bloc?s executive arm, has tried without success to get the bans in other countries lifted and on Tuesday warned it would examine the German decision.

?The Commission will analyse the ban by Germany with the adequate scientific information support and the Commission will decide on the most appropriate follow-up toward this situation,? Commission spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau told a regular briefing.

Monsanto declined immediate comment. The MON 810 maize is resistant to corn borer, a butterfly whose caterpillars damage maize plants.

Aigner said her ministry would now prepare a report into Germany?s strategy on GMO crops.

Aigner, who took office in October 2008, said previously she would review approval for cultivation of GMO maize in Germany before this year?s sowing took place in late April.

Monsanto gave German authorities a report on compliance with cultivation rules at the end of March.

German authorities had given Aigner differing assessments of the report, the minister said. But the Environment Ministry also believed GMOs presented a threat to the environment.


The south German state of Bavaria welcomed the decision and now planned to become a GMO-free zone, Bavarian state Environment Minister Markus Soeder said.

Aigner?s decision was also welcomed by German environmentalist association BUND.

?The suspicions that genetic maize damages nature and animals are so widespread that a ban is absolutely necessary,? BUND chairman Hubert Weiger said.

Environmental group Greenpeace called on Aigner to work inside the EU to stop further approvals of GMO maize.

German farmers have registered intentions to cultivate some 3,600 hectares of maize for the 2009 harvest, up from 3,200 hectares in 2008.

But the total is an insignificant part of Germany?s annual maize cultivation of around 1.8 to 2.0 million hectares. German farmers? association DBV did not support or criticise the decision in a short statement, saying it expected the decision to have been made according to scientific principles.

?As in the public there is a deep divide between those who favour and oppose (GMO crops)?, the DBV said.

Ferdinand Schmitz, chief executive of the association of German seed producers, said the decision was arbitrary and would damage Germany as a location for research.

Schmitz accused Aigner of trying to score points with voters in the upcoming European parliamentary elections and said banning seeds already approved as safe could generate legal action for compensation. (Additional reporting by Julie Lois in Brussels; editing by James Jukwey)

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: Agence France Presse, France



DATE:   14.04.2009

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BERLIN (AFP) ? Germany became Tuesday the sixth European Union nation to ban a type of genetically-modified maize manufactured by US biotech giant Monsanto, the only GM crop permitted until now in the country.

Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told reporters she was outlawing the cultivation of MON 810 maize -- modified to be super resistant against crop-destroying insects -- on environmental grounds.

?I have come to the conclusion there are just reasons to assume that the genetically-modified maize MON 810 represents a danger for the environment,? Aigner said.

?Therefore, the cultivation of MON 810 is now banned in Germany.?

The environment ministry had undertaken a ?rigorous study to weigh the pros and cons,? she said, adding that ?new scientific elements? had come to light justifying the decision to ban the GM crop.

Fields containing genetically-modified corn make up a mere 0.2 percent of Germany?s total maize-producing land -- with only 3,700 hectares (9,100 acres) of land sown with GM maize.

The decision underlines political heavyweight Germany?s role in the camp of European countries sceptical about genetically-modified produce -- dubbed Frankenfoods by their opponents.

Germany is the sixth EU country to introduce a provisional ban on MON 810, following similar action taken by France, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg and Greece.

The European Commission sought to force Austria and Hungary to reverse their bans on the crop but its ruling was overturned by a majority of EU nations last month.

Spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau said: ?the Commission will analyse the ban by Germany and ... decide on the most appropriate follow-up to this situation.?

German environmental groups hailed Tuesday?s decision.

?This is a welcome change of course from the environment ministry. Neither German consumers nor farmers want genetically-modified plants,? said Leif Miller, head of Germany?s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, NABU.

?A ban on MON 810 was overdue and is an important step in the right direction.?

However, Annette Schavan, Germany?s education minister, said she regretted Aigner?s decision, noting that the European Food Safety Agency had declared MON 810 safe.

Schavan stressed that genetic research in Germany must not be affected by today?s decision.

Aigner said earlier the decision was an ?individual case? and was not a ?fundamental decision about future policies relating to green genetic technology.?

According to the US lobby group ISAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech), the use of GM crops worldwide is steadily increasing.

Around 125 million hectares contained genetically-modified plants in 2008, a rise of almost 10 percent on the previous year, according to ISAA statistics.

Some 13.3 million farmers sowed GM crops last year, 1.3 million more than in 2007, the group said.

Seventy-two percent of soya was genetically modified worldwide along with nearly half the planet?s wool production.

                                  PART 5

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SOURCE: The New York Times, USA

AUTHOR: James Kanter


DATE:   14.04.2009

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Germany announced plans on Tuesday to ban the only genetically modified strain of corn grown in the European Union, dealing a new blow to the American manufacturer, Monsanto, and raising the specter of trade tensions with the United States.

The German agriculture minister, Ilse Aigner, said that the move was intended to protect the safety of consumers and the environment. But she underlined that it would not represent a blanket ban on genetically modified crops.

?My decision is not a political decision, it?s a decision based on the facts,? Ms. Aigner said. ?I have come to the conclusion that there is a justifiable reason to believe that genetically modified maize of the type MON 810 presents a danger to the environment.?

Kari Matalone, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, said the corn ? which is engineered to resist pests ? had been approved for cultivation in Europe more than a decade ago and that no ill effects had been detected since then.

?We don?t really understand where this decision is coming from,? Ms. Matalone said.

Skepticism among consumers about the safety of genetically modified products and about their effect on the environment has made Europe one of the most difficult markets for Monsanto and for other makers of such crops.

A particular headache for biotechnology companies is that countries retain the right to impose their own bans on cultivation of products approved by the European Union, while they examine new scientific findings. It can take years for a company to force those governments to lift such bans.

The European Commission, the executive body, has been pushing member governments to ease rules on genetically modified crops to enable greater quantities of lower cost foods and animal feeds to be grown in Europe.

The commission has also been seeking to ease tensions with Argentina, Canada and the United States, where modified crops are grown.

Those countries won a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization in 2006 obliging the European Union to ease remaining bans on the import and cultivation of genetically modified products. The United States still could impose punitive duties on the Europeans for continuing to block trade.

Spain grows about 80,000 hectares of the genetically modified corn, the largest quantity in the European Union. Germany grows 3,000 hectares out of its total corn crop of about 2 million hectares, making the move to ban the crop in Germany highly symbolic.

The Czech Republic, Portugal and Poland are among countries still growing the crop, while France and Luxembourg are among countries to have recently imposed bans on cultivation.

The European Food Safety Authority currently is reviewing the Monsanto product because European Union consent to market the product has expired. Even so, E.U. rules allow the product to remain on the market during the authority?s assessment.

                                  PART 6

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SOURCE: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada



DATE:   14.04.2009

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Genetically modified corn can no longer be grown commercially in Germany.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday that the government is banning the cultivation of MON 810 maize. That strain of corn is the only genetically modified crop that Germany had allowed to be cultivated in the country.

Aigner said she has concluded the crop poses a danger to the environment.

The change in rules means that MON 810 may not be sown in Germany this upcoming growing season.

Germany had allowed the strain?s cultivation since 2005.

MON 810, also known as YieldGuard Corn Borer, is a strain of corn extremely resistant to European and southwestern corn borers, caterpillars that eat and damage corn plants before becoming adult moths.

The strain was developed by Monsanto, a multinational agriculture technology company headquartered in the U.S.

The corn has already been banned by five other European Union countries:

- France.

- Austria.

- Hungary.

- Luxembourg.

- Greece.

The European Commission has tried to overturn those bans, but has so far been unsuccessful. The crop has been approved as safe by the European Food Safety Authority, and the commission is concerned about potential trade disputes arising from the bans.

Opponents of genetically modified foods say their long-term effects on human health and the health of the environment have not been studied enough. However, producers of genetically modified crops, such as Monsanto, say the plants are as safe as traditional varieties and promise higher yields at a lower cost to farmers and consumers.

                                  PART 7

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SOURCE: Greenpeace European Unit, Belgium

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   14.04.2009

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BRUSSELS, Belgium ? Germany is expected to become the sixth EU country to ban the cultivation of Monsanto?s genetically modified (GM) maize MON810 following today?s announcement by the German Federal Agriculture Minister. MON810 is the only GM crop currently commercially cultivated in the EU ? mostly for animal feed ? and is now due for re-authorisation under EU rules after the expiry of its ten-year license. Besides Germany, five countries have already banned its planting: France, Greece, Austria, Hungary and, most recently, Luxembourg. ?Any government that seriously examines the environmental risks associated with growing MON810 maize can only reach one conclusion: to ban its cultivation. Instead of trying to force countries to lift national bans on this crop, the European Commission should face the reality of scientific facts. We call on Commissioner Dimas to stop this maize?s EU-wide re-authorisation,? said Márta Vetier, EU GMO policy officer.

Notes to Editor

Peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated that the pesticide-producing MON810 maize, developed by US agro-chemical company Monsanto, has negative effects on the environment and on biodiversity. See:

                                  PART 8

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SOURCE: GMO-Compass, Germany



DATE:   14.04.2009

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(14 April 2009) German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner (CSU) has banned the cultivation of MON810 Bt maize in Germany with immediate effect, invoking a safeguard clause in European genetic technology legislation.

The approval of MON810 maize is suspended with immediate effect. ?With that, any cultivation and any further sale of MON810 maize in Germany is prohibited,? said the agriculture minister in a press release. The German states are responsible for monitoring the ban.

Aigner based her decision on a safeguard clause of the EU?s release directive. According to that, a Member State may temporarily restrict the sale of a GMO product, when ?new or additional information? gives ? reasonable grounds to believe? that the GMO product concerned presents a risk to either human health or the environment.

As to what the risks are in the case of MON810 or on what new scientific evidence Aigner has based her decision, she didn?t say.

She referred to five other EU countries which had invoked the safeguard clause for banning the cultivation of MON810 maize. However, up to now, these national bans have not been upheld in the scientific assessments called for in the EU directives. The scientific GMO Panel of EFSA again came to the conclusion that there is no new scientific-based evidence to justify a national ban on MON810.

These national cultivation bans, though, have received some political support recently. In a vote of the Council of Ministers there was no qualified majority reached to force Austria or Hungary to rescind their bans on MON810. The EU Commission had suggested the vote, as there was no scientific indication of any safety issue.

Monsanto has announced the possibility of taking legal action against the ban. According to a report from SPIEGEL online, the Federation could be faced with damage claims of six to seven million Euros, should the ban not stand up to a judical examination.

See also on GMO-Compass:

GMO Database: Maize Mon 810

Further information:

EFSA: Request from the European Commission related to the safeguard clause invoked by Austria on maize MON810 and T25 according to Article 23 of Directive 2001/18/EC

Proposal for a Council Decision concerning the privisional prohibition of the use and sale in Austria of genetically modified maize MON810



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