|February 11, 2004,
organic-research.com/www.vistaverde.de: The new
German Federal law intended to prevent the contamination
of non-GMO crops by genetically engineered crops is coming
under fire by both sides of the debate. Environmentalist
and consumer protection organizations lament that the
rules are too lax and don’t do enough to protect
against contamination while, proponents of biotechnology,
including the German Farmers’ Union DBV, argue that
the rules will all but kill the possibility of growing
GMO crops in Germany.
In response, Federal Minister for Research, Edelgard
Bulmahn offered reassurances that both research interests
and consumer protections were considered before the
Cabinet decision was issued.
Minister for Consumer Protection Renate Kuenast said
that the most important issue is to guarantee over the
long term the production of non-GMO crops free of genetic
engineering in Germany. There should not be a "creeping
dominance" of genetically modified cultivations,
she said. By autumn 2004 the law should be passed by
both chambers of the parliament (Bundestag and Bundesrat).
The rules are coming narrowly ahead of the first GMO
test plantings, which several newspapers are reporting,
can be expected this spring.
Among other things, the law takes a stand the hotly-debated
issue of the liability laying responsibility in cases
of contamination of conventionally cultivated fields
by GM-fields on the farmers growing the GM-crops. All
fields planted with GMOs will be recorded in a site
register. The controversy in the decision reached has
risen over the idea of joint liability. This means that
several farmers cultivating GMOs can be held jointly
liable if the contamination of a GMO-free area is proved.
Helmut Heiderich, speaker for genetic engineering in
the Christian Democratic Party called the new liability
rules as useless. Also the Farmers' Union criticized
the liability rules as completely unacceptable. The
association of agricultural industries (Industrieverband
Agrar, IVA) wants "green genetic engineering"
to be given a fair chance.
The ban on cultivation of GMOs, in place in the EU
for six years, will be abolished shortly. By 18 April
a labelling requirement for GM products will be in force
EU-wide. In case of violation, penalties of up to 50,000
Euros can be imposed.