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'Frankenfoods' debate

jen/pfd, Reuters/APApril 22, 2009

US biotech giant Monsanto is suing Germany over its decision to ban genetically modified corn, saying it is arbitrary and goes against EU regulations.

A gene-altered corn cob in Froehstockheim, central Germany
Monsanto has taken action against the German banImage: AP

On Wednesday, Monsanto confirmed a report in the Handelsblatt newspaper that it had filed a suit in a court in the northern German city of Braunschweig, aiming to overturn the ban on GM corn.

Monsanto is hoping for a decision by mid May, which would allow it to plant GM seed this spring, according to Handelsblatt.

Last Tuesday, German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced a ban on planting genetically modified Monsanto corn type MON 810.

butterfly on a fuschia plant
Some butterflies are thought to be harmed by the GM cornImage: dpa

She cited studies which, she said, show the corn is dangerous for the environment, specifically Monarch butterflies and other insects. The seeds contain a gene, which protects the corn against a pest, the European corn borer butterfly.

The MON 810 strain is the only genetically modified crop approved in the European Union and was approved for commercial use in the EU in 1998. The European Food Safety Authority has said the strain of corn was safe, despite widespread doubts.

Aigner has the support of environmental federations and politicians across party lines.

Monsanto's seed was due to be planted on 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of German farm land this year, predominantly in the east of the country.