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[genet-news] APPROVALS & REGULATION: Monsanto seeks end to German GMO maize ban for ’09 crop

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Reuters, UK

AUTHOR: Michael Hogan


DATE:   22.04.2009

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- Legal action to get GMO ban lifted for German 2009 harvest

- Says Germany presents no new data to justify GMO ban

HAMBURG, April 22 (Reuters) - Monsanto, the world?s biggest seed company, said on Wednesday it hoped legal action to end Germany?s ban on growing its genetically modified (GMO) maize would allow the variety to be sown for the 2009 harvest.

On Tuesday, Monsanto said it had started legal action against the decision on April 14 by German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner to ban cultivation and sale of Monanto?s MON 810 GMO maize which stopped it being sown for this year?s harvest.

Monsanto hoped a court decision would be available by mid-May which would permit the maize to be sown for this year?s harvest, a Monsanto spokesman said.

An application for an urgent hearing had been made in a German district court. German maize is planted in April and May.

The company would contest the ban because it believed the decision damaged its legal rights as the European Union had approved the maize as safe, he said.

Aigner had said she decided to issue the ban as information showed there was a justifiable reason to believe GMO maize presented a danger to the environment.

Such decisions must be based on new scientific information, the Monsanto spokesman said.

?The explanation that we received from the BVL (German federal food safety agency) last Friday contains no new scientific findings and the study that the BVL puts forward has already been examined by the European Food Safety Authority and other agencies,? he said.

The EFSA is the EU risk assessment agency for food and animal feed safety.

A spokesperson for Germany?s Agriculture Ministry said: ?We have taken note of this lawsuit, which is not a surprise.? The ministry would not make detailed comment on legal cases.

The ban put Germany alongside France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg, which also banned MON 810 maize despite its approval by the EU as safe for commercial use in the bloc.

The EU Commission, the bloc?s executive arm, has tried without success to get the bans in other countries lifted.

German farmers have registered intentions to cultivate some 3,300 hectares of maize for the 2009 harvest, up from 3,100 hectares in 2008.

But the total is an insignificant part of Germany?s annual maize crop of around 1.8 to 2.0 million hectares.

(Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Peter Blackburn)

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Food Production Daily, France



DATE:   22.04.2009

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Monsanto has filed a lawsuit against the German government after the EU member state banned planting of its genetically modified MON810 maize last week.

MON810 maize is genetically engineered to produce Bacillus thuringiensis, which is toxic to the corn borer pest. Permitted in Europe since 1998 for animal feed, it is marketed as a way to save farmers money on insecticides and other pest controls.

However German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner claimed last week that she had ?legitimate reasons? to believe the maize to be a danger to the environment ? and believes the Environment Ministry to agree with the view. Although MON810 has been permitted in Germany since 2005, she scrapped plans for 3,600 hectares (8,892 acres) to be planted in the eastern states for this summer?s harvest.

Now the biotech giant has hit back, according to a Reuters article, filing a lawsuit against the Germany government in the administrative court in Braunschweig, northern Germany.

The wire quotes a spokesperson for Monsanto as saying the ban is ?arbitrary?. A clause in EU law does allow member states to impose such a ban, but Monsanto claims they can only do so once a plant has already been approved if new scientific evidence has come to light.

If the outcome of the lawsuit is in Monsanto?s favour, the cost to the German government has been estimated at between ?6m and ?7m.

Aigner, a member of the Christian Social Union, has denied that the decision to ban the MON810 plantings is politically motivated. She said the ban is an individual case, and should not be taken as an indication of future policy on genetically modified crops.

Other bans

Germany is not the only country to have banned MON810. France also invoked the clause on new scientific evidence that cast doubt over its safety last year.

However a review conducted by the European Food Safety Authority, requested by the European Commission, concluded that ?in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, the provided information package does not present new scientific evidence that would invalidate the previous risk assessments of maize MON810?.

Other countries to implement bans are Hungary and Austria. Last month European ministers voted ? for the fourth time ? against forcing these countries to lift their bans, despite EFSA?s view.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development, Switzerland

AUTHOR: Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest 13 (14)


DATE:   22.04.2009

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Resisting the will of the European Commission, Germany has become the sixth European country to impose a national ban on the cultivation of MON810, a genetically modified strain of maize. The country said the ban, imposed on 14 April, was based on environmental concerns, but agriculture giant Monsanto, which manufactures the pest-resistant strain, said that the fears were unfounded and that it was considering legal action on the matter.

?I have come to the conclusion there are just reasons to assume that the genetically modified maize MON810 represents a danger for the environment,? Ilse Aigner, Germany?s minister of agriculture, told reporters on Tuesday, AFP reported. ?Therefore, the cultivation of MON810 is now banned in Germany.?

Monsanto responded quickly to the move. ?Monsanto is examining all available options and reserves the right to take legal steps so that German farmers can sow MON810 in the current season,? said Ursula Luettmer-Ouazane, head of Monsanto?s German division, in a statement.

?We are disappointed and frankly, we don?t believe that they have justification to warrant this,? Brad Mitchell, a spokesman for Monsanto, told the St. Louis Business Journal. ?They have cited unconvincing evidence that it is unsafe for aquatic organisms. But the scientific committee of the European Union approved it.?

The European Commission has approved the use of MON810 maize and Germany has allowed farmers to grow the strain since 2005. But EU members Austria, France, Greece and Hungary have all banned its use; Luxembourg announced its own prohibition of MON810 just last month (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 3 April 2009,

Europe?s aversion to GM products motivated the US, Argentina, and Canada to bring a complaint to the WTO in 2003. Three years later, the WTO ruled that the EU?s de facto ban on genetically modified food imports between 1984 and 2004 violated world trade rules.

Since then, the WTO has called on the EU to pressure its member countries to allow farmers to produce the modified strain of maize. Earlier this year, the European Commission was unable to force France and Greece, and later Austria and Hungary, to allow the use of MON810. But both efforts were unsuccessful (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 20 February 2009, and 6 March 2009, The countries claim that current scientific studies do not provide adequate assurance that the genetically modified crop does no harm to humans, animals or the environment.

While the Monsanto maize is approved for use in all EU countries that have not imposed national bans, it is harvested in only seven of the bloc?s 27 member states.

ICTSD reporting; ?Germany banks Monsanto?s GM maize,? BBC NEWS, 14 April 2009; ?Germany wants to ban Monsanto Corn,? ST LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 15 April 2009; ?Germany to join other European countries in ban against Monsanto?s genetically modified MON 810 corn,? EAT.DRINK.BETTER, 15 April 2009; ?Monsanto mulls legal action over GMO ban,? AFP, 15 April 2009.



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