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POLICY & REGULATION: BASF said to consider genetically modified crop exit in Germany



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   BASF SAID TO CONSIDER GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROP EXIT IN GERMANY

SOURCE:  Bloomberg, USA

AUTHOR:  Sheenagh Matthews & Richard Weiss

URL:     http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-05/basf-said-to-consider-genetically-modified-crop-exit-in-germany.html

DATE:    06.07.2011

SUMMARY: "BASF SE, the world?s biggest chemical maker, may withdraw genetically modified crop research from Germany in response to growing political opposition, three people familiar with discussions said. The maker of the Amflora scientific potato is considering the future of its research facility in rural Limburgerhof in southwestern Germany, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren?t public. A move to the U.S. is possible for the plant biotechnology operations, which employ 700, said one of the people."

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BASF SAID TO CONSIDER GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROP EXIT IN GERMANY

BASF SE, the world?s biggest chemical maker, may withdraw genetically modified crop research from Germany in response to growing political opposition, three people familiar with discussions said.

The maker of the Amflora scientific potato is considering the future of its research facility in rural Limburgerhof in southwestern Germany, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren?t public. A move to the U.S. is possible for the plant biotechnology operations, which employ 700, said one of the people.

Germany plans to close all 17 of its nuclear reactors by 2022, exiting atomic power after a meltdown in Japan stoked safety concerns. The move has strengthened the Green Party, which rejects nuclear energy and is now a junior coalition partner in BASF?s home state. The risks of genetically modified organisms are difficult to calculate, the Greens say.

?GMOs may be just like atomic energy,? said Ulrike Hoefken, the Green Party?s regional environment minister. ?The risks are masked and big benefits are claimed. But it?s the general public who is left with the costs for any damage.?

The flight of research means Germany may lose out on the $12 billion market for genetically modified plants, which is set to grow 5 percent annually over the next five years, according to advisory firm Phillips McDougall. BASF founded the agricultural center in Limburgerhof in 1914 and now has 11,000 square meters of greenhouses and some 40 hectares of fields.

Weighing Politics

BASF, in an e-mailed response to questions, said it?s too early to comment on the future of plant biotechnology research, though the company will take regional politics into account. The company has already halted projects focusing solely on the European market, it said. The Green Party tripled its vote in Rhineland-Palatinate, home to BASF?s Ludwigshafen headquarters, on March 27.

?We are committed to green biotechnology,? Peter Eckes, head of BASF?s plant science unit, said in an e-mail. ?We value the open and constructive dialogue we have had with Rhineland- Palatinate?s government in the past and want to continue this dialogue with the members of the new government. This also includes the clarification of the new government?s attitude toward green biotechnology.?

The potential setback comes a year after BASF won permission to plant its Amflora potato for use as a thickening agent for paper, overcoming 13 years of opposition from environmental groups in Germany and Sweden who cited possible damage to health and ecology.

Missing Out

Developing countries will overtake industrialized nations in planting genetically modified crops before 2015, said Clive James, founder of nonprofit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, or ISAAA.

?The price countries like Germany will have to pay if they decide against biotech will be very high,? James said in an interview on June 15. ?The money and the scientists would go elsewhere. That?s a long-term loss.?

James estimates 15.4 million farmers in the world use biotech crops, 90 percent of those being ?among the poorest of the poor.? The crops are an ?essential element? to help reach the United Nation?s Millennium Development Goals, which include cutting poverty and hunger by 50 percent by 2015, James said.

German seed maker KWS Saat AG carries out research and plants test fields in its home country, while commercial planting takes place in the U.S. because of regulatory hurdles in Europe, according to spokeswoman Sabine Michalek. Bayer, based in Leverkusen, Germany, located its plant biotechnology research in Belgium.

Monsanto?s Moves

Monsanto Co., the world?s largest seed company, has pared plant development in Germany to a sole project with two test fields because the country?s ?basic framework doesn?t lend itself to further products,? company spokesman Andreas Thierfelder said.

?We?re keeping the minimum required to retain our accreditation,? Thierfelder said by telephone on June 22. ?It?s just enough to keep our foot in the door.? Monsanto does most of its research in Missouri, where the company is based.

China may be spending the most on researching crops engineered for specific traits or resistance to pests, ISAAA?s James estimates, with Brazil and India also investing heavily.

?China sees it as a strategic issue, a question of independence and of food security,? he said.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   MEP VOTE ON GM IGNORES SCIENCE

SOURCE:  Farming, UK

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.farminguk.com/news/MEP-vote-on-GM-ignores-science_21091.html

DATE:    06.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The European Parliament is setting a dangerous precedent for EU legislation by ignoring scientific advice on genetically modified crop varieties, the NFU has warned. MEPs have backed a report, based on proposals from the European Commission, which would allow Member States to disregard advice from the European Food Safety Authority and ban the cultivation of GM crops for non-scientific reasons, such as socio-economic factors."

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MEP VOTE ON GM IGNORES SCIENCE

The European Parliament is setting a dangerous precedent for EU legislation by ignoring scientific advice on genetically modified crop varieties, the NFU has warned.

MEPs have backed a report, based on proposals from the European Commission (EC), which would allow Member States to disregard advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and ban the cultivation of GM crops for non-scientific reasons, such as socio-economic factors.

Dr Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said the MEP report contained a variety of measures that would not only threaten the single market but also seriously hinder progress towards sustainable agriculture in the EU.

?The measures proposed could have a serious and detrimental consequence for farmers, consumers and scientists on all sides of the GMO debate,? said Dr Ferrier.

?We are disappointed that MEPs have decided to act according to emotive and political agendas rather than robust scientific evidence. This stance could discourage scientific research and investment in the EU which are crucial for sustainable agriculture. This is not the way to mend a dysfunctional regulatory process.

?Many MEPs have expressed a fear about the co-existence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops. Of course there needs to be a strong legal framework for approvals and effective co-existence measures to allow GM and non-GM systems to operate successfully together. However, this must be based on sound science and market mechanisms to allow farmers the choice over which crops to grow.

?Farmers need all the tools available to them to contribute to ?sustainable intensification?. With the world population set to grow to nine billion by 2050, Europe must be in a position to contribute towards global food security.

?We believe a common authorisation procedure with common evaluations of health and environmental safety will best serve EU farmers, consumers and the environment.?

Dr Ferrier also welcomed the recent and long-awaited statement of the UK Government?s policy on GM crops in England.

?In line with the NFU?s biotechnology policy the Government says decisions to authorise GM crops must be science-based. It says there must be choice for farmers and consumers and recognises there are benefits in using GM technology in agriculture. It confirmed that the UK is not in favour of the EU proposal.

?There are no quick fixes but we will continue to work with the Government and through our Brussels office to get these messages across,? she said.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   COMMENTS ON THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT?S DEBATE ON THE PROPOSAL TO ?NATIONALISE? CULTIVATION OF GM CROPS

SOURCE:  Europabio, Brussels

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1309934869-EP_Nationalisation_PR.pdf

DATE:    05.07.2011

SUMMARY: "According to Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, EuropaBio?s Director of Green Biotechnology Europe, ?The debate reveals very clearly how politicised science has become in European policymaking. If Member States can opt-out of a product approval system simply because of political preference, without any scientific reasoning, the result will be more uncertainty and less choice for farmers. It is disappointing to see how such political voting is making Europe into a science museum rather than an economic motor driven by innovation, particularly at a time when the whole world needs to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.?"

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COMMENTS ON THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT?S DEBATE ON THE PROPOSAL TO ?NATIONALISE? CULTIVATION OF GM CROPS

The European Parliament debate on the cultivation of GM crops highlights how difficult it is to give more power to the Member States to opt-out of planting products whilst preserving a workable science-based decision-making system at an EU level.

EuropaBio supports the Barroso vision in which, after a comprehensive EU-level safety assessment, Member States should be free to choose to cultivate GM crops at their own pace. But the Parliament?s debate has highlighted the legal problems connected with banning products that have been proven safe. EuropaBio supports policymaking based on the scientific evidence of GM crops? safety. The very strict authorization process at the EU level guarantees that GM crops are only allowed for cultivation if, after thorough assessment, their safety is demonstrated. With almost 20 years of safety assessments and more than 2 trillion meals with GM ingredients consumed without one substantiated food issue, it is reasonable to have confidence that this technology has been demonstrated to be safe.

According to Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, EuropaBio?s Director of Green Biotechnology Europe, ?The debate reveals very clearly how politicised science has become in European policymaking. If Member States can opt-out of a product approval system simply because of political preference, without any scientific reasoning, the result will be more uncertainty and less choice for farmers. It is disappointing to see how such political voting is making Europe into a science museum rather than an economic motor driven by innovation, particularly at a time when the whole world needs to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.?

Europe continues to miss out on the economic benefits GM crops present by delaying cultivation approvals. A recent study (Park, et al. 2011) revealed that EU farmers are missing out on an additional ?440-930 million each year by not being able to choose and plant the available GM crops.

?As they contemplate the future challenges of globalisation, climate change, food insecurity and shortages of natural resources, many decision-makers continue to deny farmers the ability to use cutting edge technologies, already available to their counterparts outside the EU, to help them to deal with these same challenges?, said du Marchie Sarvaas.

The European Parliament voted today in its first reading of the European Commission?s proposal.

Their vote is one of the first steps in the process, which will be followed by a discussion among Member State governments.

ENDS

Additional Resources

The Impact of the EU regulatory constraint of transgenic crops on farm income (Park et al, 2011)

EuropaBio comments on the proposals to nationalise the approval of GM crops for EU cultivation (13 July 2010)

Pocket guide to GM crops and policies (May 2011)

GM crops: Reaping the benefits, but not in Europe (May 2011)

GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2009 (Brookes and Barfoot, 2011)

EuropaBio GM Benefits Factsheet, December 2010

About EuropaBio

EuropaBio's mission is to promote an innovative and dynamic biotechnology based industry in Europe. EuropaBio, (the European Association for Bioindustries), has 62 corporate and 7 associate members operating worldwide, 2 Bioregions and 19 national biotechnology associations representing some 1800 small and medium sized enterprises.