Monsanto GM Maize Not Authorised by EU Commission / GM exodus from Germany? (28/6/2004)

Despite the headlines in Dow Jones and other US papers today saying 'EU: Commission approves GM corn product', see item 2:

1.GM exodus from Germany?
2.Monsanto GM Maize Not Authorised by EU Commission

1.Law 'may stifle German science'
Research group says GM law, applauded by environmentalists, will trigger scientific exodus
By Ned Stafford, The Scientist, June 28, 2004

A new law passed by Germany's parliament that strictly regulates genetically modified (GM) crops will almost certainly stifle innovation and trigger an exodus of GM scientific research from Germany, according to a top official of the German Research Foundation (DFG).

The new legislation comes after a spring planting season filled with increasingly public—and contentious—skirmishes between Germany's robust environmental movement and frustrated scientists over the issue of GM crops. The new law had the strong support of German Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast, a member of the environmentally friendly Green Party, which is the junior governing coalition partner of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's SPD Party.

Kuenast described passage of the bill as a success for consumer protection and the rights of non-GM farmers who fear crop contamination from adjacent GM fields.

Jörg Hinrich Hacker, vice president of the DFG, told The Scientist that particularly worrisome for researchers are sections of the new law dealing with liability and penalties to planters of GM crops.

Under the new law, planters of GM crops that are found to contaminate adjacent non-GM fields can be held liable for damages even if they followed planting instructions and other regulations. Furthermore, the new rules removed reference to an acceptable threshold for GM pollen contamination. Hacker said this will allow non-GM farmers with even trace levels of GM pollen to seek monetary reimbursement if they can prove the contamination decreased the market value of their crops.

Because of the new law, some German universities and other research organizations involved in GM research will not want to take the financial risk, said Hacker, who also is head of the Institute for Molecular Infection Biology at the University of Wuerzburg.

"Science in the field of molecular biology… will become weaker in Germany," Hacker said. "Some of this experimental science will go to foreign countries."

The new law also will create bureaucracy that will hinder GM research, Hacker said. For example, under the new rules, GM researchers who previously needed to deal with only one authority will now have to gain approval from two authorities, one for contamination/location issues, and one for release issues.

The legislation also requires GM planters to seek regulatory approval at least 3 months in advance of planting, which Hacker believes in practice will result in waits of at least 6 months for approval. Such delays could be crippling for some scientists, who he said are working under intense competition and/or working with foreign colleagues.

"If scientists cannot proceed [with the next round of experiments], then they are not working in an ideal situation," Hacker said.

The new law requires planters of GM crops to provide a central public register with exact location of fields and other pertinent information. The information would be available over the Internet.

Earlier this year, anti-GM activists destroyed GM wheat fields. A few weeks later, concerns about destruction prompted researchers in one project to plant nearly 30 GM cornfields in secret locations.

Hacker appeared ambivalent about the central public register, at first saying that he can understand the need to make the exact location of fields public. But when pressed whether the DFG supported creation of the central public register, he said: "No. I cannot say so."

Hacker added: "From my point of view, we have to convince the GMO activists not to destroy, not to commit illegal acts." Until that time comes, he conceded that researchers will have increase security for GM fields.

Henning Strodthoff, gene technology expert at Greenpeace in Hamburg, told The Scientist that Greenpeace strongly supports the public register, adding that it simply brings Germany in compliance with EU Directive 2001/18, which requires registration of GM fields.

Strodthoff described other aspects of the law as "progress," saying it will improve transparency, minimize potential GM contamination, and increase liability for planters of GM crops.

"If GM crops are allowed, then we need strong regulations," Strodthoff said. When asked what Greenpeace would prefer in a GM planting law, he said: "Our goal is to stop GM planting. We want GM planting to be forbidden."

Links for this article Jörg Hinrich Hacker http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/infektionsbiologie/imi-start.htm

N. Stafford, "German GM wheat trials continue," The Scientist, April 13, 2004. http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040413/03/ N. Stafford, "GM crop sites stay secret," The Scientist, May 28, 2004. http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040528/02

Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms and Repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!pro d!CELEXnumdoc&lg=EN&numdoc=32001L0018&model=guichett

Greenpeace Germany http://www.greenpeace.org/deutschland/

2.Monsanto GM Maize Not Authorised by EU Commission
Jun 28

EU Environment Ministers today failed to reach an agreement on a proposal by the European Commission to authorise the import of genetically modified maize NK 603, produced by the US company Monsanto. Eight EU ministers ( from Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg) voted against the proposal and three countries (Germany, Spain and Slovenia) abstained. Eleven countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Ireland,

Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and UK) voted in favour. The postions of Poland and Malta remained unclear.

Friends of the Earth Europe's GM Campaign Coordinator Geert Ritsema said:

"This is the sixth time in a row that the European Commission has failed to convince the member states to approve a genetically modified organism. The Commission wants to show the public that there is a thorough safety assessment for any adverse impact on public health. What they achieve is the contrary. It is becoming more and more clear that the authorities in Europe are deeply divided over the subject of GM."

Friends of the Earth last week urged European environment ministers to reject Monsanto's GM maize because:

-There has only been an analysis of the short term effects on human and animal health. There has been no analysis of the long term effects on subsequent generations and the effects on health sensitive consumers. This is in breach with article 14 of EU Regulation 178/2002.

- There has been insufficient analysis of allergenicity. It is unacceptable that EFSA has dismissed the legitimate concerns raised by several Member States, about the suitability of the approach used for allerginicity testing [1].

The next vote on maize NK 603 will be by the EU agriculture ministers.

Monsanto's application for the import of NK 603 maize is in two parts. Today's vote was on the import for animal feed. Agriculture ministers will vote within three months on the use of NK 603 in food. If agriculture ministers fail to agree, it is up to the Commission to decide whether the import of NK 603 maize will be allowed without the support of member states.


[1] For a detailed FoEE briefing on genetically modifeid maize NK 603, see http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/pending/nk603briefing.pdf

Votes on GMO approvals by member states

8 December 2003. Vote on BT11 at the Standing Committee on Food and Chain and Animal Health. Result: no qualified majority (qm). {in favour ES, IE, NL, FI, SW, UK; against: DK, GR, FR, LU, AT, PT; abstentions BE, DE, IT}

18 February 2004 ; Vote on NK 603 (C/ES/00/01) for import and use in feed and industrial processing at the Standing Committee of Release of GMOs into the Environment. Result: no qm {in favour ES, BE, FI, FR, IT, NL PT, SW, UK; against: LU, AT, DK, GR, IT, Abstention DE}

26 April Vote on BT11 at the Council of Agriculture. Result: no qm. {in favour: IE, NL, FI, SW, UK, IT; against: DK, GR, FR, LU, AT, PT, abstentions : BE, DE, ES}

30 April. Vote on NK 603 (NL 13/08/2002) for food. at the Standing Committee on Food and Chain and Animal Health. Result: no qm. {in favour IT, IE, NL, FI, SW, UK, FR, BE; against: DK, GR, FR, AT, PT, abstentions ES, DE }

16 June. Vote on GT 73 for import and use in feed and industrial processing at the Standing Committee of Release of GMOs into the Environment. Results: no qm {in favour: BE, CZ, FI, FR, NL. LV, PT, SK, SW, against: AT, CY, DK, EE, GR, HU, IT, MT, LT, LU, PL, UK, abstentions: DE, IE, ES, SI)

28 June. Vote on NK 603 (C/ES/00/01) for import and use in feed and industrial processing at the council of Environment Ministers

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