HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany should reconsider its policy of permitting farmers to grow maize with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and consider banning biotech crops, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday.
Gabriel is the second minister to raise a change of GMO policy this week, following Farm Minister Ilse Aigner’s statement she may review permission to grow MON 810 GMO maize, developed by U.S. biotech group Monsanto Co..
Germany should consider following countries like France, which had imposed a unilateral bans on GMO maize cultivation, Gabriel said in a statement.
“We should also follow this prudent course taken by our neighbors,” Gabriel said.
MON 810 maize has been approved as safe to cultivate by the European Union and all farmers in the bloc are theoretically free to grow and sell it. The maize is resistant to the corn borer, whose caterpillars damage plantings.
France and Greece have imposed unilateral bans which are controversial in the face of the EU wide approval and are claimed by some to break EU regulations.
Moves are under way to force both countries to lift their bans, although EU biotech experts on Monday failed to agree on issuing an order to both countries to allow GMO crop cultivation.
Gabriel said Germany should review its policy of permitting GMO cultivation before this season’s crops are sown in the spring.
“The top priority in the use of genetic technology in agriculture must be placed much more on the precautionary protection of people and the environment,” Gabriel said.
In early February, German farmers registered intentions to plant 3,567 hectares of GMO maize for the 2009 harvest, up slightly from the 3,207 hectares cultivated in 2008.
But the total is an insignificant part of the German annual maize cultivation of around 1.8 to 2.0 million hectares.
Earlier this week Monsanto hit back at German government criticism, saying its MON 810 GMO maize had been approved as safe by Germany’s own Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety along with the European Food Safety Authority, the EU’s key food safety agency.
Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by James Jukwey