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[genet-news] GMO-FREE REGIONS: Reactions on Germany’s MON810 ban

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Der Spiegel, Germany

AUTHOR: David Crossland


DATE:   15.04.2009

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The German government?s decision to ban the cultivation of genetically modified corn has been welcomed by most media commentators in Germany as an overdue step in response to fears that it poses unforeseeable risks. One paper, however, scoffs that ?progress has become a dirty word? in Germany.

The news Tuesday that Germany was joining five other European Union countries in banning the cultivation of genetically modified corn met with mixed reactions. Environmentalists were delighted, while supporters of GM foods warned it could lead to an exodus of research efforts from the country.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told reporters she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810, a GM corn produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto, 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.

German media commentators have broadly welcomed the decision, although they say political factors may well have played a part. Aigner is a member of the conservative Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel?s Christian Democrats, and the CSU is keen to tap popular opposition to genetically modified crops in the heavily agricultural Alpine region in the run-up to September?s German general election.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

?The ban is a severe defeat for industry and research. Agriculture Minister Aigner is being accused of having taken a purely political decision. There are no serious studies that prove the corn poses a danger, its supporters say. But anyone who uses that argument merely proves that they haven?t understood the problem. As long as the crop?s usefulness hasn?t been established, there is no reason to accept the risks involved in farming it. Aigner had to issue a ban. Anything else would have been a gigantic open-air experiment with unforeseeable consequences.?

The left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau writes:

?Genetically modified corn is a risk to our environment, is totally superfluous in farming, represents industrial agriculture, causes pointless costs to food production in Germany and can even ruin beekeepers. All this has been discussed at length. The fact that this has finally led to an official ban is to be welcomed.?

The conservative Die Welt writes:

?Progress has become a dirty word, even with the Social Democrats who once defined themselves as a party of progress. Apart from a meek FDP (eds. note: the opposition liberal Free Democrats), no one dares to argue in favor of technical innovation if the activists shout ?fear? loud enough. Just think of all the innovations that have been blown up into bugaboos in recent years -- mobile phones, PET bottles, PVC window frames, computers, the Internet, the Transrapid magnetic-levitation train, medical gene technology and much else. But in the case of green gene technology, the fearmongers are able to score their biggest triumph since the phase-out of nuclear power.

?They persuaded people that the food we currently eat is completely natural -- and that nature is always a good thing. But ?conventional? agriculture involves exposing seeds to radioactive rays or making it mutate with the help of poisons. There?s nothing natural about these coarse and unfocussed methods. Genetic technology offers, for the first time, the possibility to precisely select a desired gene.?

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

?The fact that only water fleas and butterflies have been damaged doesn?t disprove the warnings about unforeseeable effects. Who knows the extent to which humans may be affected in the long term by something that immediately kills off small creatures?

?Rejecting this type (of GM corn) isn?t the pet project of peripheral social groups but is government policy in five EU countries.?

The left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:

?Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner was right to ban the type of GM corn that originated in the US and has been approved in Europe for 11 years. Growing and selling MON 810 is irresponsible because no one can predict the risks to animals, other plants and not least human beings.

?The government did the right thing -- but for the wrong reasons, and very late. Countless questions regarding the impact and dangers were unanswered even when Brussels approved MON 810 despite existing doubts and when then-Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer permitted its use in Germany. Consumers and environmentalists protested at the time but were labeled enemies of progress.

?The new studies don?t show any new risks -- they simply prove that the old warning about the risks was justified. It?s a scandal that the subsequent ban was even necessary because the farming of genetically modified plants had been permitted without a thorough examination of all the possible dangers.?

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Deutsche Welle, Germany



DATE:   15.04.2009

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GM opponents fear the effects modified crops may have on other plants and animals

Germans are divided on the government?s decision to ban genetically modified corn over environmental concerns. If nature was a business what would it say?

German Agriculture Minister Isle Aigner announced a ban on the cultivation of US biotech giant Monsanto?s genetically modified corn strain MON 810 on Tuesday after considering a number of studies. Monsanto?s seed was due to be planted on 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of German farm land this year, predominantly in the east of the country. The MON 810 strain is the only genetically modified crop approved in the European Union.

Some German media commentators say the agriculture minister?s environmental concerns were well founded, but others have questioned her motives.

?As long as there are any doubts, Germany should follow the example of other EU countries and prevent the cultivation of GM corn - or at least impose a moratorium,? writes the Sueddeutsche Zeitung from Munich. ?But that would have to happen quickly, before new seeds are planted. The decision will always be controversial, but it would be embarrassing if the governing coalition avoided acting until after the next election.?

?A minister has no choice; one has to make a decision that is both politically acceptable and realistic,? says the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. ?Agriculture Minister Aigner has made her decision on the GM corn issue and has banned its cultivation with immediate effect and on a continuing basis. Her reasons may be numerous. One of them is fears based on observations that Mon 810 is more damaging to the environment than its advocates suggest. The fact that only water fleas and butterflies have so far been harmed does not refute warnings of unforeseeable consequences. Who knows how many humans will soon have to endure the same fate as those small creatures??

?Aigner has to decide now if she wants to ban MON 810 from German fields,? writes the Berliner Zeitung. ?The damage that genetically modified crops can cause to the animal and plant worlds - from mutation to reduced biodiversity - is not foreseeable. If nature were a business like Monsanto, with press spokespeople and bags of money for good lawyers, then it would have won the genetic modification case long ago, and it wouldn?t be governments who were worried about claims for compensation, but rather seed producers. Aigner should turn herself into a lawyer for nature and ban GM corn in Germany - even if within her [Bavarian] CSU party there is more consideration of election tactics than there is ecological conviction.?

?The first thoroughly Bavarian political reason [for Aigner?s decision]: The farmers in Bavaria oppose genetically modified corn, and so does the CSU,? comments the Financial Times Deutschland. ?If Aigner had allowed the cultivation of GM corn, it probably would have cost her votes at the European parliamentary elections in June, and probably in the German federal election too. The CSU?s popularity among voters is not so great that she could have allowed GM corn. The second reason is more substantial: There is a deep mistrust of genetic modification. Germans are prepared to accept every artificial flavor, every preservative or any other dubious ingredient in food - but when it?s a question of genetic modification, they want nothing to do with it.?

?Fear has won again - or to be more precise, the CSU?s fear in the lead up to the European elections,? writes Die Welt. ?For years a green-conservative splinter group, the Ecological Democratic Party, has been the fear-monger in villages in Bavaria, spreading rumors and false allegations about genetic engineering. Because nobody took a stand against them, an active movement has developed, based on unsettled farmers and city eco-esoterics, who have made the CSU scared. ? Queasy feelings are dictating politics.?

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: Greenpeace India, India

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   16.04.2009

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DELHI, India ? Following the German government?s decision to ban Monsanto?s 810 BT Corn, Greenpeace India today urged all Indian political parties to take a similar pro-active stand against all GM food and pay heed to bio-safety concerns of millions of voters across the country. The ban on the hazardous 810 Corn variety was invoked under immense pre-election public pressure.

?This is a victory for the environment, for consumers and farmers who want to avoid GMOs as well as for independent science?, Said Alexander Hissting, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace Germany. ?The ban sends a powerful message to biotech corporations like Monsanto which are aiming to take control of the global food chain: Hands of our maize, hands of our rice, hands of our food!?, said Alexander.

Earlier, Ilse Aigner, the German Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection was quoted as ?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? .The Minister based her decision on the safeguard clause from the EU law (Directive 2001/18) which allows member-states to use the precautionary principle and prohibit GMOs in the light of new evidence.

Germany is the sixth EU country to ban the cultivation of Monsanto?s genetically modified (GM) maize MON810. The other five countries which have already banned its planting: France, Greece, Austria, Hungary and, most recently, Luxembourg.

However, even as country after country gives the boot to Monsanto?s hazardous corn, the same in India is undergoing field trial in no less than 3 public sector institutions - the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, Rajendra Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Samastipur, Bihar and Mahatma Phule Krishi Vishwavidyalay(MPKV),Rahuri, Maharastra. The field trials have ignited intense protest in past few months across the country, leading to brutal police action, and arrest of hundreds of protesters.

Lauding the ban by Germany, Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace India said, ?Germany?s decision to ban the harmful BT Corn is truly commendable. In a true democracy, the voice of the mass is of utmost importance. Now, as we too prepare for the election, all political parties must ensure that the voice of the majority is heard and all GM food crops are banned as they violate people?s rights to safe food?.

It can be pointed out here that GM food crops have recently emerged as an election issue and several political parties including BJP, CPI, CPI(M), CPI-ML, and PMK have promised a strong stand against GM food in their manifestos. However Congress, the leader of the UPA Government has surprisingly maintained complete silence on the whole issue.

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: Agence France Presse, France



DATE:   15.04.2009

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BERLIN (AFP) ? US biotech giant Monsanto said Wednesday it was considering legal action against Germany?s decision to ban a type of genetically modified maize -- MON 810 -- manufactured by the firm.

?Monsanto is examining all available options and reserves the right to take legal steps so that German farmers can sow MON 810 in the current season,? said Ursula Luettmer-Ouazane, head of Monsanto?s German division, in a statement.

MON 810 is ?safe for human health, animals and the environment, which has been proved by an overwhelming number of scientific studies,? the firm added.

On Tuesday, German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told reporters she was outlawing the cultivation of the 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.

Monsanto pointed to the fact that the safety of MON 810 has been demonstrated by the United States, Japan, Canada and the European Commission.

?Farmers worldwide have been benefiting from the advantages of insect-resistant maize for 10 years -- and the trend is growing,? the firm said.

Around 125 million hectares contained genetically modified plants in 2008, a rise of almost 10 percent on the previous year, according to statistics from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech.

                                  PART 5

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SOURCE: EUBusiness, Belgium

AUTHOR: Agence France Press, France


DATE:   15.04.2009

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(PRAGUE) - Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said Wednesday the European Union would ?reflect? on Germany?s decision to ban a type of genetically-modified maize produced by US biotech giant Monsanto.

?We will reflect on the issue and we should take the right decision,? Dimas said after an informal meeting of EU ministers for the environment in Prague.

On Tuesday, Germany outlawed the cultivation of MON 810 maize -- the only GM crop permitted until now in the country -- on environmental and health grounds.

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.

A source close to the European Commission told AFP the German ban might bring a revision of the European legislation on GM crops.

Throughout Europe, the public opinion is now against and if the people were asked one more time, ?there would be a rejection,? the source said on condition of anonymity.

?The spirit has changed, the legislation in a way is operating like an automatic pilot and we have to put some direction in it,? the source added.



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