EU law, Directive 2001/18, requires national authorities to register GM fields and their locations. The list of fields then must be relayed to a central online database co-managed by the European Commission. As of midday Friday (May 28), this had not been done.
...opposition to keeping the fields secret has come from farmer groups and a wide variety of officials and politicians, including Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast (item 1)
1.Germany: GM crop sites stay secret
2.New Zealand: farmers to harvest rogue crops
1.GM crop sites stay secret
German research coordinators refuse to reveal GM cornfield locations
By Ned Stafford
The Scientist, 28 May 2004
Political and public pressure is increasing on researchers in Germany to reveal the locations of 30 fields sown with corn seeds that have been genetically modified (GM) to resist corn borer.
The fields are part of a research project that aims to determine if GM corn has any effect on neighboring conventional cornfields. The study involves seed companies Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, and the German-based firm KWS SAAT.
Thus far, research coordinators, seed companies, and participating farmers have resisted the ever-increasing pressure, saying that field locations in seven German states must be kept secret to protect them from damage by anti-GM activists, a fate that has befallen other German GM crop sites recently.
The seed companies and farmers have not even revealed field locations to government officials or other public officials who might be legally required to release the information.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission told The Scientist that an EU law, Directive 2001/18, requires national authorities to register GM fields and their locations. The list of fields then must be relayed to a central online database co-managed by the European Commission. As of midday Friday (May 28), this had not been done.
The spokeswoman said anyone who believes EU GM regulations are not being followed can make an official complaint to the commission. To her knowledge, no such complaint had yet been made about the German GM cornfields, she said.
The seed companies involved in the project contend that EU law does not apply to the project. They said that GM planting on 26 of the 30 farm fields was a private matter between the seed companies and participating farmers, who paid for the GM corn seeds and received no other compensation.
W. Eberhard Weber, who is in charge of research for the GM corn project, told The Scientist that he supports the decision to keep the locations of fields secret.
"I'm sure that some organization would try to destroy the fields if they knew where they are," Weber said. "And that organization is among the people who are asking where the fields are."
Weber did not specify which organization he was referring to. Others have pointed at environmental group Greenpeace, which is leading a major public relations effort to force organizers to reveal field locations.
Weber, head of the Department of Plant Breeding and Plant Protection at Martin-Luther-University at Halle-Wittenberg, said that as a quasi-public official, he also was not told the field locations.
If the fields were in no danger, he would prefer to make their location public, he said. But he added: "At the moment, my feeling is this: I am a scientist, and as a scientist I have to do all things that allow scientific evaluation. The best strategy at the moment is not to publicize field locations."
In addition to Greenpeace, opposition to keeping the fields secret has come from farmer groups and a wide variety of officials and politicians, including Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast, a member of the Green party.
Henning Strodthoff, gene technology expert at Greenpeace in Hamburg, told The Scientist that German law currently does not comply with EU Directive 2001/18, which requires registration of GM fields.
A bill that would bring German law in line with EU law was introduced this week in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. Strodthoff said the proposed bill would require registration of GM farm fields at least 2 months before planting.
Despite lack of German compliance with the EU directive, other GM research projects have been registered on the central database and can be found on the Web site. Those registrations include two controversial GM wheat fields planted by Syngenta. Both those fields, also vociferously opposed by Greenpeace, had to be abandoned after being damaged.
Strodthoff did not seem to be aware that a complaint could be filed with the European Commission about GM farm fields that had not been registered. Asked whether Greenpeace had filed such a complaint, he said: "Not yet."
Links for this article N. Stafford, "Uproar over German GM corn," The Scientist, May 17, 2004. http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040517/03/ N. Stafford, "German GM wheat trials continue," The Scientist, April 13, 2004. http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040413/03/ Deliberate Releases and Placing on the EU Market of Genetically Modified Organisms, Biotechnology and GMOs Informations Website http://gmoinfo.jrc.it/gmp_browse_geninf.asp
W. Eberhard Weber http://www.landw.uni-halle.de/lfak/inst/pzps/pz/pz.htm
Greenpeace Germany http://www.greenpeace.org/deutschland/
2.MAF allows farmers to harvest GE crops
NZ Press Association, 29 May 2004
Biosecurity officials say farmers who have planted maize contaminated with genetically-engineered seed will be allowed to harvest their crops.
But the farmers will be asked to comply with some additional conditions, including separate storage of the harvest, and post-harvest field inspections.
Questions over whether farmers will be compensated are still being worked on.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) staff have nearly completed investigations into the planting of the maize seed containing genetically engineered DNA - despite New Zealand's "zero-tolerance" stance on seed imports.
The contaminated seed was allowed across the border because of shoddy interpretation by the American laboratory that provided test certificates for 52 shipments - representing about 40 per cent of corn consignments from the US since January 2003.
New Zealand has a zero tolerance for GE material in seed imported for sowing, but the laboratory, Biogenetic Services, of Brookings, South Dakota, declared some samples with very low levels of contamination as not being GE seed.
Checks have shown some of the seed imported for planting since January 2003 was wrongly certified as GE-free: MAF originally identified 1317 bags of maize seed which contained 0.05 per cent GE presence - equivalent to less than one GE seed in 2000 non-GE seeds.
"We can confirm that 357 of the 1317 bags ... were sold and nearly all planted," said MAF's director of plant biosecurity, Richard Ivess.
MAF had been able to trace all but one of these bags to Northland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay.
Unplanted bags of seed had been seized and would either be destroyed or re-exported, as would the 960 unsold bags of maize seed seized.
Some of the maize had been harvested and made into silage stock food, but Mr Ivess said the fermentation process involved in silage would have destroyed any seeds.
Some of the remaining maize that had been planted but not yet harvested was also intended to be used as grain in stockfood.
See also: Hundreds of bags of GM seed planted The Dominion Post, New Zealand http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2922942a7693,00.html