More destruction of GM maize and barley in Germany (2/7/2007)

1.More attacks on coexistence trial field
2.Giessen: More destruction on barley trial field


1.More attacks on coexistence trial field [shortened]

In a repeat of last year’s events, parts of a trial field with GM maize in Forchheim (Baden-Wurttemberg) have once again been destroyed. The field is part of the coexistence research programme funded by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV), which is investigating practical questions of coexistence between genetically modified and conventional maize farming.

During the night of Friday 22 June 2007, anti-biotechnology activists forced their way onto the field and trampled on some of the maize plants. As a spokesman for the Baden-Wurttemberg Ministry of Agriculture said, a "considerable area" was destroyed.


2.Giessen: More destruction on barley trial field

Once again, parts of a trial field on land belonging to the University of Giessen have been destroyed. The field is being used to investigate whether genetically modified barley has undesirable impacts on beneficial soil fungi like mycorrhizas. The project is being publicly funded as part of the biological safety research programme.

Radical biotechnology opponents had already caused extensive damage to the trial field last year. Despite security measures having been tightened up significantly since then, in the night of 12 June 2007 unknown perpetrators forced their way onto the trial field and systematically destroyed some of the barley plants.

About 5000 GM barley plants had been planted on the research station site belonging to the Institute for Phytopathology and Applied Zoology at the end of April. They had been produced from two barley lines developed in the USA. One of them contains an active chitinase gene from a soil fungus. Chitinases break down chitin, which is also a component of fungal cell walls. The second line contains a gene from a soil bacterium that produces glucanase . The gene was transferred to barley to improve its brewing properties and to make it more easily digestible as animal feed. However, glucanase also has fungus-resistant properties.

The research project led by Giessen-based biologist Prof. Karl-Heinz Kogel is investigating whether the formation of enzymes that break down chitin and glucan also harms beneficial fungi. Between 70 and 80 per cent of terrestrial plants live in symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi , with the plant and fungus being of mutual benefit to each other. If the two GM barley lines were to prove harmful to these fungi, which are important for the health and vigour of plants, this would have great significance for agricultural ecosystems. Both GM barley lines are a long way off being used commercially in Europe.

Despite the destruction, it was still possible to evaluate parts of the trial last year. These findings were to be tested and confirmed during the current growing season.

The trial will be continued this year again, despite the action by radical biotechnology opponents. Some of the samples from the root area of the plants had already been taken.

The University of Giessen has lodged a complaint against the perpetrators.

Trial fields belonging to the University of Giessen had already been destroyed at the end of May. On those fields the Institute for Plant Breeding was conducting value tests on behalf of the Federal Office of Plant Varieties with numerous maize varieties, including varieties of GM maize MON810. Such trials are laid down by law as part of the variety authorisation process.

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