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Germany Bans Genetically Engineered Corn
GERMANY BANS NOVARTIS Bt CORN IN
MOVE TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT

Presence of antibiotic resistance gene cited as key factor in decision.
February 16, 2000
Greenpeace Press Release
http://www.greenpeaceusa.org/media/press_releases/00_02_16.htm
WASHINGTON -- Germany's minister for health
announced today the suspension of approval for Novartis' Bt 176 corn on the
grounds that the action was necessary to protect consumers and defend
precautionary health protection. According to Minister Andrea Fischer, who
holds full responsibility for approving genetically modified organisms
(GMO), the key factor in the decision is that Novartis' insect-killing Bt
corn
contains an antibiotic resistance gene. She also hinted at unresolved
questions about detrimental effects on non-target species and dispersal of
the
Bt toxin in soil.
"We had to act now," explained Fischer, "as we learned that Novartis has
applied for unrestricted approval of the seeds of these (corn) varieties.
With
the suspension of the approval for the release [of Bt] as GMO, such seed
approvals are automatically stalled as well." Fischer confirmed that any
planting of Novartis Bt corn is banned in Germany immediately. Fischer also
said that she intended to open a new round of risk assessments of GMOs and
invited all stakeholders to participate in this discussion.
"The German Minister's decision is a step in the right direction and is an
important signal to industry, the public and the European Commission,"
said Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace. "We are confident that we will be able
to prevent the planting of GE corn in the rest of the European Union.
Nobody wants this GE corn in the fields, except Novartis. We appreciate that
now another important member state of the EU has recognized that this corn
is a threat to human health and the environment."
Fischer confirmed that the German government was applying Art.16 of EU
Directive 90/220, which allows any member state to withdraw a GMO
approval if it has concerns about possible health or environmental impacts
of the GMOs. The suspension would last at least until there was a decision
of
the European Commission on Germany's objections.
Germany joins France, Luxemburg, Portugal and Austria in formally
banning the planting of Novartis Bt corn. The corn was approved by the EU
Commission in 1997 against massive protests held before the EU
moratorium on GMO approvals came into effect in 1999.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency has been challenged in
court for its pesticide registration of Bt corn. Greenpeace and a coalition
of
over 70 plaintiffs sued the EPA, charging the agency with the wanton
destruction of the world's most important biological pesticide-Bt.
Scientists
warn that corn genetically engineered with the Bt pesticide in each of its
cells
could lead to insect resistance within 3 to 4 years.
Market rejection of Bt corn cost U.S. farmers more than $200 million in
export revenue last year. A recent Reuters poll of 400 farmers predicted a
24
percent decline in the planting of Bt corn and a 26 percent decline in the
planting of Bt cotton this year. Currently, Bt corn is grown on
approximately
20 million acres in the U.S., and Bt cotton on about 7 million acres.

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