BIO Deutschland Expresses Its Views on the Second "Round Table" on Plant Biotechnology

On the occasion of the second "round table" on plant biotechnology on 21 July at the Federal Research Ministry, BIO Deutschland demanded that the debate should concentrate on the facts and that politicians should finally make an unequivocal commitment to this future-oriented technology.

BIO Deutschland had already pointed out the importance of plant biotechnology for Germany as a location for innovation in a position paper co-published with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation during the previous week.

"In terms of the economy, the efforts made by innovative farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises are worthwhile," said Peter Heinrich, Chairman of the Board of BIO Deutschland. He added that by making great efforts, these companies do not merely develop new products for the market, which should secure the basis and quality of life for all people in the future, but also create the conditions needed to make the products safe and sustainable. The more complex and involved are the rules that need to be kept, the harder it is for biotech companies based in Germany and active in this sector to survive on the international market. "The current regulations and lack of legal certainty in the area of plant biotechnology indirectly support and strengthen a few multinational companies," Heinrich emphasised.

Jens Katzek, a member of the board of BIO Deutschland, added, "Genetic engineering and biotechnology are still wrongly defamed as high-risk technologies by some lobby groups that attract a lot of public attention." Katzek pointed out that instead of explaining the matter, information on the positive experiences with genetic engineering and biotechnology during more than the last twenty years is being kept from the public. He stated that this information shows that this advanced technology is safe and has led to significant improvements in all areas of our everyday lives and our health, adding that there is no credible study to the contrary. "In the light of this situation, we welcome the commitment of the Federal Research Minister, Annette Schavan, all the more. She is trying to ensure that the future of Germany as a location for innovation takes precedence over political wrangling."

"We must not make the same mistake that politicians with responsibility for the sector already made in medical biotechnology during the 1970’s and 1980’s," Katzek continued. In 1978, human insulin was first produced in a laboratory using biotechnology. As early as 1982, the marketing of the insulin began in the USA, with the expected benefits to patients, who were now able to use a medication with fewer side effects. On the contrary, Germany blocked the new technology for twenty years and thus played a part in the German pharmaceutical industry’s loss of its worldwide leadership position. It was only in 1998 that the first production plant for human insulin was able to start its operations near Frankfurt as part of what was then the chemical company Hoechst.

To date, Germany’s innovative small and medium-sized companies have not been able to bridge the gap to more technology-friendly countries. In a recent study, the European Commission came to the conclusion that in 2005 only six of 140 newly licensed active ingredients were developed in German pharmaceutical companies.

In an earlier position paper, BIO Deutschland already pointed out that in the last twenty years, increasingly complex legal parameters have been created, particularly in the area of plant biotechnology. At the same time, hundreds of millions of euro have been invested in safety research, which have largely confirmed that genetically modified plants are exactly as safe as those that are cultivated conventionally. As a legislative body, the German Bundestag has also created a complex system of different legal regulations and public authorities to evaluate possible risks.

You will find a copy of the position paper at

The text of the position paper on plant biotechnology is available at "Position Papers"

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