Hit hard

Germany imposes strict rules on genetically modified crops

Published: Friday 31 December 2004

german farmers cultivating genetically modified (gm) crops will now be responsible for the contamination caused to non-gm crops in neighbouring fields. They will also have to record, in a public register, all the land they use for gm cultivation. These are some provisions of a new law passed by the German parliament on November 26, much to the vexation of farmers and biotech companies. But it has received support from environmental groups.

The new law is being touted as the strictest in Europe to regulate the cultivation of gm crops. It also necessitates safety measures like surrounding gm fields with non- gm plants to prevent cross-pollination. The law is significant, especially in view of the eu recently lifting the long-standing moratorium on gm crops and the differing views on the matter within the country itself (see 'Politics, genetically modified' Down To Earth, November 15, 2004).

Opponents of the law, including the farmers' union dbv, say it will adversely affect research and innovation and discourage farmers from growing gm crops. "The result of the gm law will be that research and development are neglected, which are necessary to assess in an objective way the advantages and disadvantages of this green genetic technology," said the dbv. But the supporters argue the law is necessary to protect consumers and farmers. "In a timely way, the law provides...legal clarity and planning security in the farming industry," says Germany's agriculture minister Renate Kuenast.

"This [the law] will have catastrophic consequences," Heinrich Cuypers, managing director of BioCon Valley, a federation of north German biotech companies, was quoted by the Financial Times (ft) as saying. "It will set the use of biotechnology in agriculture years back," Cuypers claimed. Arno Krotzky, chief executive of a biotech company, Metanomics, told the ft: "The law just makes it too risky to grow gm crops."

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