Secret German GM crop trials revealed / More on Taverne (7/5/2004)

1.Secret German GM crop trials revealed
2.Organic approach to better food and environment

Secret German GM crop trials revealed
Half the country is experimenting, says minister
Ben Aris in Berlin
Friday May 7, 2004
The Guardian

Seven of Germany's 16 states were revealed to be hosting secret trials of genetically modified crops after environmental activists destroyed a field of corn in Saxony-Anhalt, in the east of the country.

Saxony-Anhalt, which, with Bavaria, is one of two states to admit funding GM crop trials, said five other states were holding trials in 29 secret locations.

Saxony-Anhalt's economics minister, Horst Rehberger, said GM corn, which will be fed to cattle, was also being cultivated in Baden-W'rttemberg, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony and Thuringia.

Germany's Green party, which is backing a tough genetic engineering law, said it was dismayed to discover from the media the extent of GM cultivation. The Greens are the junior partner in the ruling coalition.

"We were surprised not only to discover the number of trial fields but also the total size more than 300 hectares (750 acres) ... This is not just an experiment, they are growing the corn for profit," said a spokesperson.

The party says farmers are taking advantage of a loophole in EU regulations that allows them to grow GM crops for experimental purposes without notifying the authorities.

A tough German genetic engineering law to force farmers to ask permission to grow GM crops and set up a central register has been hamstrung by regional opponents in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament.

The Greens claimed there was an alliance between the biotech industry and conservative parties, who were trying to profit from the absence of definitive legislation. Greenpeace has already applied to the European commission for clarification of the rules, arguing that the location of the experimental fields cannot be kept secret.

Kristof Then, the Greenpeace spokesman for agricultural affairs, said: "The action of the state representatives in the Bundesrat (to block the genetic engineering law) is ... against the interests of the country and against the interests of the people."

In April, the EU introduced a directive requiring all food prepared with GM ingredients to be labelled. But the rule does not apply to meat and dairy products from animals fed genetically altered fodder.

Germany has no penalties for companies that ignore the directive. Conservatives also blocked the German agriculture minister's proposal to impose a euro 50,000 (GBP34,000) fine on rule-breakers.

Mr Rehberger said Saxony-Anhalt had set aside euro 390,000 (GBP263,000) to fund the trials, of which euro 240,000 GBP162,000) was being held in reserve to compensate farmers for any damage the trials caused.

Organic approach to better food and environment
Friday May 7, 2004 The Guardian

Dick Taverne is so reassuringly sensible about the safety of paracetamol, I almost forgot its sale was restricted in the UK because of the 100- 150 deaths a year it caused.
Nick Coupland University of Alberta

Integrated farm management, the more targeted use of chemicals, which Dick Taverne praises, probably delivers for wildlife, but the evidence is not, as yet, very convincing.

However, his claim that GM crops allow low-till farming that is "the most beneficial to birds and wildlife" is deeply misleading. The field-scale trials clearly demonstrated what a disaster these crops can be for wildlife, drastically reducing the availability of seeds, an important food source for birds.
Dr Mark Avery Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Dick Taverne would have us believe organic food is an expensive fad. In reality GM crops, dependent on highly toxic weedkillers, are much more likely to promote poverty and hunger.

While organic food is increasingly popular in Europe and the US, it can also benefit people in the developing world. The UN has recently said that organic farming methods can be a vital tool in promoting sustainable rural development.

Dick Taverne should isten to the experiences of real farmers in these places (see www.farmingsolutions.org).
Ben Ayliffe Greenpeace UK

I don't need TV chefs to tell me which foods taste better. My own experience tells me that certain organic products consistently taste better than their non-organic equivalents - yoghurt, cream and eggs being three of these. And the idea of trebling food production to feed the world's starving millions is ridiculous.

Better that the western world reduces its wasteful patterns of food consumption and we solve the problem of hunger by redistribution.
Corin Ashwell London


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