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Brussels votes on GM maize

February 11, 2014

EU ministers have allowed the cultivation of a new genetically modified crop. Environmentalists had urged Germany to block approval of the genetically modified maize variety at the EU ministers' vote in Brussels.

Farmer inspecting maize crop. Sella Oneko/DW
Image: Kerry Skyring

EU ministers to vote on GM crops

The bloc had faced a deadline set by a European court to make a final decision.

Although the European Food Standards Authority has declared the maize variety safe, critics warn that TC1507, propagated by the US firm Dupont Pioneer, could endanger butterflies and moths and ultimately human health.

The insect-resistant corn variety is intended for use as animal fodder and for biogas production plants.

Currently Britain, Spain and Sweden are leaders of the "yes" camp. France and Hungary lead opposition to the maize, with Germany's federal government expected to abstain because of a pro-contra split among Germany's 16 regional states or Länder.

If the EU's complex voting arithmetic produces a further deadlock among European affairs ministers representing the 28 bloc members, the EU's Health Commissioner Tonio Borg has already said approval for TC1507 will be automatic.

Last year, a European court told the EU that Pioneer's request for permission in Europe must be dealt with by this week.

German minister to seek exemptions

German Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of the conservative, rural Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) recently said that should EU approval emerge he would seek exemption clauses for those Länder opposed to GM crops.

"My goal is that each regional state will be able to decide whether it allows cultivation or not," Friedrich told the newspaper Passauer Neuen Presse last Saturday.

The genetic expert of the Greens party in Germany, Harald Ebner, on Tuesday urged Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government to exercise a "no" vote in Brussels, instead of abstaining.

Referring to surveys which show residents in Germany widely opposed to genetically modified foodstuffs, Ebner said that if Germany abstains, Merkel would "show that she does not act according to the opinion of the people of Germany."

So far, only four EU countries had clearly spoken in favor of 1507 cultivation, he added.

German regional states divided

The agricultural minister in Saxony-Anhalt state, Hermann Onko Aeikens of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said German adoption of 1507 should be nationwide, not a "patchwork quilt."

Till Backhaus, agriculture minister in Germany's northern state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, warned against 1507.

"In my opinion there is a lack of basic accompanying studies to show which impact this plant will have on flora and fauna," Backhaus said.

Bavarian Environment Minister Marcel Huber said: "In the future we also do not want green genetic engineering on our fields."

ipj/tj (dpa, AFP)