Germany says "Nein" to GM corn

The Agricultural Minister of Germany announced on Tuesday that German farmers are prohibited from planting genetically modified corn because of safety reasons. Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner banned the cultivation and sale of MON 810 genetically modified corn seed, a product of the biotechnology company, Monsanto.

Aigner told the media the decision was made to prevent "danger to the environment," a rationale that the Environmental Minister supported. Aigner told SPIEGEL magazine that her decision only applies to GM corn — not future genetic engineering decisions — and is justified based on a clause in an EU law that allows individual countries to impose restrictions.

Currently MON810 is the only crop allowed to be grown in Germany. The crop was due to be planted in almost 9,000 acres in Germany, but is banned from five EU countries, Austrian, Hungary, Greece, France and Luxembourg.

In the past, environmental groups have been very vocal about their desire to turn Germany into a "GM free food zone." According to reports in SPIEGEL, Bavaria's environmental minister Markus Söder has led this call based on the argument that MON810 poses a danger to plants and animals.

Monsanto responded with the following statement (translated from German): "We are convinced that the reasons, which led to the decision of minister Aigner, are not adequate to pull the product in doubt. They do not justify a ban," said Dr. Holger Ophoff, leader of the allowance department Monsanto agricultural Germany GMBH. Adding, "Worldwide the responsible authorities — under EU, Japan, the USA or Canada as well as the German allowance authority BVL — confirm moreover again and again the security of MON 810… Farmers worldwide have used the advantages of the insect resistant corn for more than 10 years — with increasing tendency." Monsanto said the company is looking into whether to start immediate legal proceedings.

The agricultural community is concerned that the decision's timing, literally within days of corn planting season, which could place German farmers in a vulnerable position to acquire non-GM seeds right away. In addition, commodity speculators are fearful that the decision could shift the market for German corn elsewhere until the issue is resolved.

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