April 27, 2009 / 3:48 PM / 10 years ago

Germany to permit trials with GMO potato

BERLIN, April 27 (Reuters) - Germany’s Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said on Monday she will permit test cultivat ion of a potato containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

'Sani Imilla' potatoes are displayed during a potato festival in the highland region of Tiwanacu, some 70 Km (43 miles) of La Paz, in this file photo from April 27, 2008. REUTERS/David Mercado

Open air trails of the GMO potato Amflora, developed by German chemicals group BASF presented no threat to public health or the environment, she said.

Aigner had this month said she would carry out a new review of an application for open-air trial cultivation of Amflora, which was test-cultivated on 150 hectares in 2008.

Earlier this month Aigner banned cultivation and sale of the GMO maize type MON 810 produced by U.S. seed giant Monsanto despite its approval by the European Union. There had been speculation that Aigner would stop the field trials of GMO potatoes.

Aigner said on Monday she would only permit test plantings of Amflora of 20 hectares instead of 40 hectares sought and the plantings must have extra protective fencing.

BASF warned last week a decision to stop trials could damage Germany as a location for scientific research.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said on Friday that many millions of euros had been invested in developing the Amflora potato in the hope that field trials could be made.

“This fact cannot simply be ignored because currently sentiment is hostile,” Merkel had said on Friday, calling for a calmer debate on GMO crops.

Germany’s GMO maize ban has been controversial inside Germany’s ruling government coalition as there are fears it could damage scientific development in the country.

Germany’s Research Minister Annette Schavan on has called a round table meeting into the future of GMO crops.

“We must take the fear of new technology seriously but the debate cannot be left to fear only,” Schavan said earlier this month.

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, has also started legal action against the German ban, stressing the EU has approved it as safe for commercial cultivation and sale.

Reporting by Thorsten Severin, Michael Hogan and Dave Graham; Editing by

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