March 17, 2014 / 10:01 AM / 5 years ago

German govt still undecided on GMO policy, minister tells paper

* Germany still making decisions on GMO policy

* Minister wants individual countries to decide on GMO crops

HAMBURG, March 17 (Reuters) - Germany’s government coalition has still to decide policy towards cultivation of crops with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt said in newspaper interview published on Monday.

The European Union is moving towards an opt-out policy in which individual countries will decide whether they approve GMO crop cultivation, Schmidt told the daily newspaper Tagesspiegel.

“I support this approach, but inside the government we are still deciding,” Schmidt said.

Currently the EU has the power to approve GMO crops for Europe-wide cultivation.

Longstanding differences between EU countries on GMO policy resurfaced in February when they failed to agree on whether to approve another GMO maize variety, Pioneer 1507, developed by DuPont and Dow Chemical, leaving the way open to the EU Commission to clear it for cultivation.

“One thing is clear: Our citizens do not want genetically-modified plants in the fields and want no gene-technology products on shop shelves,” Schmidt told the newspaper.

“Europe lives from the principle of solidarity. When the citizens of different regions do not want genetically-modified organisms, there must be allowances made for this. This does not weaken Europe, it strengthens the people.”

The issue of GMO crops has divided Germany’s coalition, formed in December after a hung election in September compelled Angela Merkel’s conservatives to work with their main opponents in the election, the Social Democrats.

Merkel’s conservative party the CDU favours GMOs, but the southern conservative party CSU and the Social Democrats oppose biotechnology crops.

On Feb. 5, Germany’s government decided to abstain in a European Union vote to approve cultivation of the new Pioneer 1507 GMO maize.

Schmidt also told the newspaper he is concerned about a new food price war among discount supermarkets.

“It is good that quality can today be afforded by all,” he said. “But it is different when price wars are fought with foodOur valuable food should not be squandered.”

German farming associations have criticized discount supermarkets for selling some foods at below the cost of production. (Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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