Comments by BIO Deutschland on the German Agriculture Minister’s Decisions on Plant Biotechnology
The biotechnology industry expressed its disappointment at the decision made by the German Agriculture Minister, Ilse Aigner, to ban the cultivation of genetically improved corn. In a press release issued in mid-April, the biotech sector industry association, BIO Deutschland, urgently warned about the signals that this decision would send regarding Germany as a location for biotechnology. However, BIO Deutschland welcomed the minister’s decision to permit the test cultivation of genetically modified starch potatoes as an important and correct decision in favour of innovation and progress.
"Germany’s seed industry is still strongly based on small and medium-sized companies. It will only be able to make use of innovations in plant biotechnology if there is greater consistency in legislation as regards product approval," Peter Heinrich, Chairman of the Board of BIO Deutschland, commented. He added that the minister’s decision to permit cultivation of the "starch potato" was, however, the first time since her appointment that she has publicly shown her support for progress and innovation. Heinrich emphasised that the decision, which was made on the basis of scientific facts, is the only sensible way to deal with plant biotechnology.
The Genetic Engineering Act currently in force, which was amended last year, did not meet the political objective of "promoting research on and the application of genetic engineering in Germany". The terms "freedom of choice" and "co-existence" actually disguised the de facto ban on the use of an innovative technology in Germany, which is capable of making a significant contribution to safeguarding the future of our country.
Jens Katzek, a member of the board of BIO Deutschland and an expert in the field of plant biotechnology, commented, "The decision by the German Ministry of Agriculture against the approval already given by the independent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) cannot be explained by objective criteria." He added that this type of GM corn, which is resistant to a particular sort of pest, is a product that has already been approved a dozen times and cultivated in several countries worldwide for years.
BIO Deutschland wants the minister to act consistently against the fundamental aversion to innovation and an emotionally-based rejection of progress. In the light of significant challenges facing the environment, food and raw materials, this is of vital importance not only to the German economy but also worldwide.