Reuters / Yahoo News
By Michael Hogan and Thorsten Severin Michael Hogan And Thorsten Severin
BERLIN/HAMBURG (Reuters) – Germany will ban cultivation and sale of genetically modified (GMO) maize, German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said on Tuesday.
The ban affects U.S. biotech company Monsanto’s MON 810 maize which may no longer be sown for this summer’s harvest, Aigner told a news conference. MON 810 maize is the only GM crop currently approved by the EU for commercial use.
“I have come to the conclusion that there is a justifiable reason to believe that genetically modified maize of the type MON 810 presents a danger to the environment,” Aigner said.
Monsanto declined immediate comment.
Aigner, who took office in October 2008, said previously she would review approval for cultivation of GMO maize in Germany before this year’s sowing took place in late April.
Monsanto gave German authorities a report on compliance with cultivation rules at the end of March.
German authorities had given Aigner differing assessments of the report, the minister said. But the Environment Ministry also believed GMOs presented a threat to the environment.
The decision to ban was based on scientific factors and was not a political decision, Aigner said. It was an individual case and not a fundamental decision against GMO crops, she added.
Her ministry would now prepare a report into Germany’s strategy on GMO crops.
Aigner stressed that five other European Union countries have banned GMO maize cultivation in the face of EU approvals.
Aigner’s decision was welcomed by German environmentalist association BUND.
“The suspicions that genetic maize damages nature and animals are so widespread that a ban is absolutely necessary,” BUND chairman Hubert Weiger said.
Environmental group Greenpeace called on Aigner to work inside the EU to stop further approvals of GMO maize.
A series of scientific studies had shown that GMO maize was dangerous to the environment, Greenpeace spokeswoman Stephanie Toewe said.
German farmers have registered intentions to cultivate some 3,600 hectares of maize for the 2009 harvest, up from 3,200 hectares in 2008.
But the total is an insignificant part of Germany’s annual maize cultivation of around 1.8 to 2.0 million hectares.