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Germany

GM Crop Trials Underway Throughout Germany

A field with genetically-modified wheat was destroyed by hoe-toting vandals Tuesday night. The local government responded with the revelation that GM crops are being tested in no less than seven of Germany's 16 states.

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Environmentalists say GM crops are unsafe

Police still don't know who is responsible for damaging and pulling up genetically-modified wheat plants in a 400 square meter- (480 square yard) field near Bernburg in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt on Tuesday night. But until the field was sabotaged, the German media said only two outdoor trials with GM crops were underway in the country.

The government of Saxon-Anhalt, however, reacted to the attack by announcing that GM crops are being cultivated on 29 locations which the state has been keeping secret. The eastern German state initiated the project to explore GM crops' resistance to pests.

State Economics Minister Horst Rehberger said GM corn crops were being cultivated in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania, Saxony and Thuringia as well as Saxony-Anhalt. The 300 hectares (740 acres) of GM corn would only be used for animal feed, he said. The state is funding the trials with €390,000 ($474,000), €240,000 of which have been reserved to compensate farmers for any damages during the project, the state government said.

Fear of attacks

Eine Handvoll Mais

Farmers involved in the corn trials have not been named because they fear GM opponents will destroy their fields, as they did Tuesday night in the second attack on a GM wheat field. Rehberger said he would have preferred that the names not be kept secret, but that he accepted the farmers wishes.

The Swiss firm Syngenta, whose wheat was used in the destroyed Bernburg field, said it would review whether to continue testing GM crops in Germany. The wheat had been developed to resist fungi.

Activists from the environmental group Greenpeace had already ruined a field of Syngenta wheat in March by sowing organic seed where GM seed had been planted. Greenpeace said it was not involved in the attack on Tuesday.

Farmers, Greenpeace protest

Organic farmers and environmental groups have been protesting in front of Saxon-Anhalt's economics ministry against the GM trials. They allege that genetically-modified crops pose dangers for humans and animals and that safety cannot be guaranteed.

But Saxony-Anhalt's agriculture minister, Petra Wernicke, said Wednesday that the corn met environmental and health requirements. The trials are intended to test whether the plant can stand up to the European corn borer, an insect that has reportedly infested nearly one-quarter of Germany's corn crops, according to the Associated Press.

German opponents of GM crops established a grassroots organization weeks ago to fight GM technologies being used in Saxon-Anhalt. The group has called for a referendum to decide the future of GM crops.

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