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Germans Protect Themselves from "Genetic Trespassing" by Biotech Bullies and Farmers

Friends of the Earth Europe
Press release
For immediate release: Nov. 26, 2004

NEW GERMAN LAW WILL HELP TO KEEP EUROPE GMO FREE

Brussels, 26 November. Friends of the Earth Europe today welcomed the
adoption by the German Parliament (Bundestag) of a new law that protects
consumers and farmers against the risks of genetically modified (GM) foods
and crops. The law introduces the principle that GM farmers and GM
operators are financially liable for economic damage caused if their crops
contaminate non-GM products.

The most important provisions of the law are:

* In case of economic damage (e.g. when organic or conventional farmers
cannot sell their products due to the presence of GM material), the
neighbouring farmers growing GM crops are liable.
* If it is not clear which farmer has caused the contamination the
principle of joint liability of all neighbouring GMO farmers will apply.
That means a farmer who has sustained damage will be free to
decide which neighbour to claim compensation from.
* A register with precise information about where GM crops are intended
to be released will be publicly available.

Friends of the Earth believe that these provisions will give GM farmers and
GM operators a strong incentive not to contaminate neighbouring fields, thus
helping to ensure the freedom of choice for the overwhelming majority of
German and EU consumers that do not want to eat GM foods.

Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This law is good news
for hundreds of millions of Europeans who do not wish to participate in the
biggest biological experiment of our time and who
want to eat food that is GM-free. This law should now be the benchmark for
similar legislation in other EU member states."

Nevertheless, the German law also contains loopholes and could still be
improved. Most importantly, the law hardly covers damage to the
environment as a result of GM crops. In effect, the protection that the law
offers for ecologically sensitive zones is restricted to Natura 2000 areas,
which only form 2,5 % of the surface of Germany. Field trials, the use and
handling of GM crops in such areas are only allowed if GMOs don't damage
the environment. An open question is how a competent authority can prove
that GMOs threaten the environment in a way that a ban in a special area is
justified.

Friends of the Earth is concerned that the European Commission might want to
overrule the German law by taking Germany to the European Court of Justice.
In a leaked document (available from Friends of the Earth) from July 2004
the Commission already hinted in this direction. Friends of the Earth firmly
believes that the European Commission should not threaten the protective
measures and civil rights that the German Parliament has put in place.

Contact: Geert Ritsema, Friends of the Earth Europe: mobile 00 31 (0)6 290
05 908
Heike Moldenhauer: BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany: 00 49 (0)30-275 86 456
or +49-(0)179-8138088 (mobile)

An English summary of the German law is available from this website of the
German Federal Ministry of Consumer protection and Agriculture:
http://www.verbraucherministerium.de/index-
000265812B89107E9DEC6521C0A8D816.html

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This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's
Own Foundation and is a production of the Ecological Farming Association
www.eco-farm.org <http://www.eco-farm.org/>
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