Genetically modified (GM) crops have long been controversial in Germany, where organic agriculture is booming. Now the cultivation of GM corn has been effectively banned by the government, according to media reports.
In its Wednesday edition, the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel reports that it has obtained a letter sent from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to the agricultural company Monsanto, which sells the GM corn MON 810 -- which has been legal in Germany up until now -- as seed. In the letter, the ministry writes that GM corn from the MON 810 product line can only be delivered to third parties if the firm also provides an accompanying monitoring plan which researches the effects on the environment. The German news agency DPA also reported Wednesday they had obtained a copy of the same letter.
"This amounts to a de facto ban on the cultivation of genetically modified corn," said Peter Rudolph, who is responsible for genetic technology in the Brandenburg state ministry of agriculture, in remarks to Der Tagesspiegel Tuesday. He said the letter basically means Monsanto will no longer be allowed to sell MON 810, as the company has not presented any monitoring plan up until now. Brandenburg is the German state with the largest quantity of GM corn under cultivation.
In the letter, the federal ministry justifies its decision by writing that new information "gives reasons to suppose that the cultivation of MON 810 poses a danger to the environment."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture told the newspaper that the letter should not be interpreted as a ban, but rather as a tightening of the regulations concerning the cultivation of the GM corn.
The new ruling could mean that crops already planted may not be allowed to be harvested. Brandenburg farmer Jörg Piprek told Der Tagesspiegel the new ruling was absurd: "We've already planted the corn. They can't tell us after the fact that it was illegal."
The cultivation of genetically modified crops has been controversial all over Europe, with anti-GM activists going as far as ripping up crops. The German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer has up until now justified the cultivation of GM crops in Germany by arguing they are allowed under European Union regulations.