GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Stories

German ban on MON810 maize: will the courts now decide?


Following the ban on cultivating MON810 Bt maize in Germany, Monsanto is considering taking legal action. At the moment, it is not known how long the ban will be in force.

"As soon as we have received the decision, we will examine the arguments. Then we can start taking legal action," a spokesman for Monsanto told the dpa news agency. The aim is to make it possible for farmers who have already bought MON810 seed to plant it this year. "We think the chances are very high that this temporary ban will be rescinded," said Monsanto.

Horst Seehofer, former agriculture minister and current Bavarian Minister President, welcomed the ban on MON810. The CSU is strongly in favour of a "gene technology-free Bavaria".
Photo: DSV (Deutsche Saatveredelung)

Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan (CDU) regretted the decision of her cabinet colleague Aigner. "Green gene technology is an important technology of the future, which neither Germany nor Europe should dismiss."
Photo: REGIERUNGonline / Fassbender

German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner defended her ban as being based on "expert opinion". There were reasonable grounds to believe that "MON810 maize presents a danger to the environment". She referred, among other things, to studies upon which Luxemburg had based its recently enacted ban on cultivation. Possible impacts of MON810 maize on certain ladybugs and butterflies had been examined. The studies had previously been dismissed by scientists as being insufficient. In some cases only lab tests with Bt protein, the active agent in MON810, had been carried out. The insects concerned had been fed Bt protein in amounts that were far higher than what would have been encountered under natural conditions.

Other EU countries had already tried to base their cultivation bans on some of the studies which Aigner had used for her decision. Time and again some American study on the impact of MON810 maize on aquatic animal life, such as the caddisfly, would be cited.

Scientists from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also dealt with these studies when reviewing national bans. None of them were scientifically sound enough to justify a ban on cultivation.

Even the German ban would hardly be able to stand up to a review by the EU Commission and EFSA. However, this process takes some time and would come all too late for this cultivation season. Also, there are not enough political majorities in the EU at the moment who can stop national cultivation bans not accepted in scientific circles. A court decision, such as the one Monsanto is considering, would be significantly faster.

The EU, moreover, must fear that the trade conflict with the USA will now become critical once again. The Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organisation ruled at the beginning of 2006 that scientifically unfounded cultivation bans in individual EU Member States were to be considered illegal violations of world trade agreements. The USA has yet to impose punitive tariff duties on European goods. The new U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, criticised the EU's genetic technology policy in his latest report. He explicitly referred to national cultivation bans in France, Austria, Greece and Hungary.


 

 

 


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

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