The sowing season may be just around the corner, but this year German
farmers will not be planting gentically modified crops: German
Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday she was banning the
cultivation of GM corn in Germany.
Greenpeace activists take a sample from a Monsanto test site near
Borken in North Rhine-Westphalia: The GM crop MON 810 has been banned in
Under the new regulations, the cultivation of MON 810, a GM corn produced by the
will be prohibited in Germany, as will the sale of its seed. Aigner
told reporters Tuesday she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON
810 posed “a danger to the environment,” a position which she said the
Environment Ministry also supported. In taking the step, Aigner is
taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries
to impose such bans.
“Contrary to assertions stating otherwise, my decision is not politically motivated,” Aigner said, referring to
from within her party, the conservative Bavaria-based Christian Social
Union. She stressed that the ban should be understood as an “individual
case” and not as a statement of principle regarding future policy
relating to genetic engineering.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) both welcomed the
ban. Greenpeace’s genetic engineering expert, Stephanie Töwe, said the
decision was long overdue, explaining that numerous scientific studies
demonstrated that GM corn was a danger to the environment.
However the ban could prove costly for the German government. Experts
in Aigner’s ministry recently told SPIEGEL that it will be hard to
prove conclusively that MON 810 damages the environment, which could
enable Monsanto to win a court case opposing the ban and potentially
expose the government to €6-7 million ($7.9-9.2 million) in damages.
Monsanto said Tuesday that it would look into the question of whether it
would take legal proceedings as quickly as possible. Andreas
Thierfelder, spokesman for Monsanto Germany, said the matter was very
urgent as the planting season was just about to start.
Aigner has recently come under pressure from Bavaria to ban GM corn.
Bavaria’s Environment Minister Markus Söder wants to turn Germany into a
“GM food-free zone.” Environmental groups have long called for a ban on
GM crops in Germany, arguing that they pose a danger to plants and
However, supporters of genetic engineering argue that a ban could
prompt research companies and institutes to pull up stakes and leave
Germany. Wolfgang Herrmann, president of Munich’s Technical University,
has said that a prohibition risks precipitating “an exodus of
The issue has exposed a split between Bavaria’s CSU and its larger
sister party, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Katherina
Reiche, deputy chairwoman of the CDU/CSU’s parliamentary group, has
complained of the “CSU’s irresponsible, cheap propaganda,” claiming that
it could harm German industry. She argued that anti-GM sentiment was
one reason a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Bayer decided to
moved its facilities for genetic engineering from Potsdam, near Berlin,
MON 810 was approved for cultivation in Europe by the European Union
in 1998 and is currently the only GM crop which can be grown in Germany.
The plant produces a toxin to fight off a certain pest, the voracious
larvae of the corn borer moth. The crop was due to be planted this year
on a total area of around 3,600 hectares (8,896 acres) in Germany. The
cultivation of MON 810 is already banned in five other EU member states,
namely Austria, Hungary, Greece, France and Luxembourg.