German election puts biotech law under pressure (10/11/2005)

1.German election puts biotech law under pressure
2.The end of Kunast's estates

1.German election puts biotech law under pressure
Biotech Mailout, November 2005
Friends of the Earth, Europe

On 18th September, the Germans voted for a new parliament - with surprising results. Since neither of the two main parties obtained a big enough majority to form a government, the Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) look set to form a "grand coalition". The Greens, including the previous Agriculture and Consumer Minister Renate Künast, look set to being on the back benches. This could have big implications for the German biotech law and also the shape of European politics for GMOs.

The German biotech law - the implementation of Directive 2001/18 into national law - came into force in February 2005. However, the biotech law did not fully implement the EU Directive as the last German government ground to a standstill. Parts that still need to be agreed by the Bundesrat (the second chamber of the German parliament with a conservative majority) failed to pass the conciliation committee between Bundesrat and Bundestag (first chamber of the German parliament).

It is quite possible that the biotech law will now be watered down by a grand coalition of the two main parties. The driving force to re-start the legislative procedure are the Conservatives who promised their friends in the biotech-industry to weaken the liability regime, to prevent public access to the cultivation register and to allow GMO contamination from deliberate releases in food and feed products. According to a draft proposal revealed a few days before the election, the Conservatives have a new idea to solve the liability question: GMO farmers and taxpayers shall pay compensation for any economic damage caused to conventional and organic farmers.

Whether these proposals actually become reality will depend largely on the SPD members of parliament and whether they will compromise on a law that they themselves - albeit reluctantly - put in place.

2.The end of Kunast's estates
Financial Times Deutschland, November 10, 2005
By Timm Kragenow
Translated by Shelley Jambresic, Checkbiotech

The ceremony lasted only a few minutes. A short hug from ex-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, a polite thanks from German President Horst Kohler, and Renate Kunast, the Agriculture and Consumer-Protection Minister, was released from the department. Now she will act as the German Fraction Chairwoman of the Green party.

Even though the German Union and the German SPD parties have not started the coalition negotiations yet, one thing is already sure in the new German Government there will not be a flamboyant presence like the, according to her own definition, "all-competent" ex-German Consumer Minister. For the Union and the SPD parties, it is becoming apparent that the Agriculture and the Consumer-Protection Departments will be administrated by different offices

In 2001, at the climax of the BSE scandal, Kunast became Agriculture Minister. Consequently, she inherited the responsibilities for Food Security and Consumer-Protection in her department. Thus, the "Minister for Consumer-Protection, Food and Agriculture" gave her opinion on cell phone rates and the dearth effects of the Euro as well.

From an original staff of four persons, the Consumer-Protection office turned into a bureau of 70 employees. Kunast's confidants cheered the news that the ministerial position should soon only be a subordinate authority.

However, the Union and the SPD parties already agreed that this would not happen. If it comes to a large coalition, the German Consumer-Protection Department would be separated again from agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture would concentrate on farmers and food again.

It is also clear that in a case of a large coalition the Union party would not pass up the opportunity to take over the Ministry of Agriculture. "During the last years the farmers were suppressed. For us, that is a huge elector potential," said an insider from the Union party.

A Union-led Agriculture Minister would quickly ease the regulations for pigs and chickens farming, and liberate farmers from the current far-reaching liability laws regarding genetically modified plants. The bureaucracy would be reduced and the concentration of commercial money going towards organic agriculture would be stopped immediately. The advancement of renewable primary products and biomass energy, both started by Kunast, would be continued though.

If the CSU president Edmund Stoiber and the CSU country group leader Michael Glos take over important departments like the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Economy or Defence, the Ministry of Agriculture will presumably go to the CDU. There is no preferred candidate yet.

It is still not clear where the German Ministry of Consumer-Protection will be settled in future. Organizationally, the subdivision is quite easy to separate from the Ministry of Agriculture. It would make a significant difference if topics such as insurance contract law or telephone rates were settled by the German Ministry of Justice, or by the German Ministry of Economy.

Copyright Financial Times Deutschland
Original Source: Financial Times Deutschland


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