Germany Bans GMO Maize Despite EU Assurance of Safety

In a bold move, Germany’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner announced that German farmers would no longer be allowed to plant Monsanto’s genetically modified (GMO) maize. This is in spite of the EU’s ruling that the hi-tech grain is safe.

GMO maize, or Monsanto’s MON 810, will no longer be available for planting or sale in Germany, she said.

This positions Germany alongside France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg, other EU coalition countries.

“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.

Aigner said the decision was based on scientific and not political factors, stressing the decision was made on an individual basis, not as a fundamental ban on all Monsanto GMO products.

The EU Commission has warned it will review the German decision, noting it “will decide on the most appropriate follow-up toward this situation,” EU spokeperson Nathalie Charbonnea told reporters.

Monsanto spokesman Andreas Thierfelder called the decision unwarranted and said should the ban be confirmed, Monsanto would consider legal options to enable GMO seeds to be planted for this year’s harvest.

Various groups have welcomed this decision.

The south German state of Bavaria plans to become a GMO-free zone, said Bavarian state Environment Minister Markus Soeder.

BUND – the German environmentalist association – was also pleased. BUND chairman Hubert Weiger said “suspicions that genetic maize damages nature and animals are so widespread that a ban is absolutely necessary.”

Greenpeace urged Aigner to work inside the EU to stop further approvals of GMO maize.

The German farmers’ association DBV did not support or criticise the decision, saying  in a short statement it expected the decision was made according to scientific principles.

As with most aspects of Monsanto GMO crops, not all parties agree.

Chief executive of the association of German seed producers Ferdinand Schmitz called the decision arbitrary and would damage Germany as a location for research. He warned that banning seeds already approved as safe could generate legal action for compensation.As more countries voice concern over genetically modified food crops, a squaring off grows more likely. Who will triumph in this critical contest for food safety and human health remains to be seen.