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Monsanto strikes back at Germany PDF พิมพ์
เขียนโดย admin   
Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Biotech corn developer says it's pursuing all legal options to overturn Germany's new ban on genetically modified corn. St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto (NYSE: MON) said today it's pursuing "legal options" to overturn Germany's ban on genetically modified crops.

Germany has now officially enacted the ban, announced earlier this week, on MON 810—a strain of corn Monsanto genetically engineered to protect the crop against pests. MON 810 was previously the only genetically modified crop permitted in the country under German law (see Double-whammy hits genetically modified crops).

Germany was set to have 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of the MON 810 crop planted this year, but German officials questioned the environmental impact of the seed.

Biotech giant Monsanto isn't taking the ban lightly.

"We haven't decided what our next step is, but legal options are one of the things we're considering," said Brad Mitchell, director of public affairs for Monsanto, in an interview with the Cleantech Group.

The European Food Safety Authority has ruled that the Monsanto MON 810 strain is safe for commercial use in the European Union. The European Union designated the EFSA as the sole authority to make rulings about the safety of GM crops, but any member country wanting to overrule the EFSA would need to present scientific evidence to support a ban.

"There's no scientific evidence to support that decision," Mitchell said. "Europe, the U.S. and Canada have all approved this for planting. Adoption in South America has been huge."

Despite traction in those markets, Germany isn't the sole country expressing doubts about GM crops. Luxembourg, Greece, Austria and Hungary have banned MON 810 from being grown in their countries. France has also banned MON 810—despite a report from its public health agency, Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments, assuring the safety of GM crops.

"The decisions over there, I think it's political," Mitchell said. "These decisions seem to be contradicting both the European Food Safety Authority, as well as in France their own scientific panels. We understand folks in Europe don’t have the same comfort level with biotech as we see in North America, but it seems the government itself should follow the scientific advice and do what's best for its citizens."

The ban prompted a joint statement from German science organizations on green genetic engineering today, citing government-funded research in Germany that proved the benefits of GM crops.

"The ban poses the danger that unfounded fear could take the place of rational scientific information," the group wrote. "A complete rejection of green genetic engineering would do lasting damage to Germany as a location for research. Genetic engineering techniques derived from molecular biology offer a unique opportunity to develop more valuable, more environmentally friendly, more productive cash crops in this era of climate change."

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a study the same day Germany announced its ban, saying genetically modified crops offer little advantage over traditional crops. The report cited studies of GM corn and soybeans in the U.S. that show little gain in crop yields.

Mitchell said the UCS study was misleading.

"They cherry-picked the data to come up with that conclusion. More importantly, they missed the larger picture: Farmers have adopted this technology very widely, and they're not going to spend the extra money unless they see value from that," Mitchell said.

Mitchell noted that beyond yield, there are many other benefits to GM crops. By eliminating the need to spray pesticides, the farmer saves on the cost of pesticides, his own time to apply pesticides, and fuel for the tractor. Additionally, less plowing of fields means fewer carbon emissions, Mitchell said (see Biotech crops lower world's carbon emissions, says researcher).

"The main uses of GM crops are to make them insect tolerant and herbicide tolerant. They don't inherently increase the yield. They protect the yield," Mitchell said. "But in developing countries without good weed and pest controls, that's where you see the dramatic yield increases."

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech estimates that there were about 125 million hectares of genetically modified plants in 2008—a 10 percent increase over the previous year. That growth trend during the past decade has resulted in more than a 60-fold increase in adoption across the globe (see Global biotech crops up 13% in 2006, driven partly by biofuel).

© 2009 Cleantech Group LLC - all rights reserved.
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