See if you can fathom this interesting piece of Monsanto logic. Monsanto are using the publication of German research which claims to show there is no danger of GM farmers contaminating non-GM crops, to support their opposition to a proposed new German law under which GM farmers would be held liable for contaminating non-GM crops.
This is just the latest variant on the continuing paradox of the biotech industry's ferocious opposition to liability. Why do they fight every suggestion of legal liability tooth and nail, at one and the same time as claiming that GM crops are absolutely safe to eat, unproblematic to grow, great for the environment etc. etc.
"Monsanto Agrar Deutschland issued a statement saying the test results supported Monsanto's opposition to a proposed liability fund that would be used to compensate non-GM farmers whose crops are contaminated from GM crops. Under the new law set to be approved later this week, planters of GM crops who are found to have contaminated adjacent non-GM fields can be held liable for damages even if they followed planting instructions and other regulations."
German GM study complete
Study organizers say the results show that GM corn fields can 'co-exist' with non-GM crops | By Ned Stafford
The Scientist, November 24, 2004
The organizers of a research project in which German fields were planted with genetically modified (GM) corn said today (November 24) that the test results prove that GM corn fields can "co-exist" with neighboring non-GM fields.
The announcement was made at a Berlin press conference just days before Germany's Bundestag, or lower house of Parliament, is expected to give final approval to a new law that would strictly regulate GM crops. Opponents of the law say it will stifle innovation and most likely trigger an exodus of GM research from Germany.
The tests, in 28 GM corn fields surrounded by non-GM fields in seven states, have been a magnet for controversy in Germany, whose environmentally friendly Greens Party is a junior coalition partner of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling SPD party. Test field locations were kept secret to prevent their destruction by anti-GM crop activists.
Speaking to The Scientist after the press conference, W. Eberhard Weber, leader of the research team, said his study, which measured GM contamination in corn harvested from surrounding non GM fields, shows that non-GM corn planted at least 20 meters from GM corn was not contaminated above the EU-allowed limit of 0.9%. According to EU regulations, corn with a GM level above 0.9% cannot be labeled as non-GM.
"There is no doubt that if you keep a certain distance, then co-existence between GM and non GM fields is possible," said Weber, who is head of the Department of Plant Breeding and Plant Protection at Martin-Luther-University at Halle-Wittenberg. "And that 'certain distance' not less than 20 meters."
Christoph Then, a Greenpeace Germany GM expert who heard Weber speak at the press conference, told The Scientist the study results appeared to be accurate.
"But the conclusion that you have no problem if you put non GM crops 20 meters away from GM crops, this conclusion is wrong," Then said.
Then insisted that the 0.9% contamination threshold mandated by the European Union is irrelevant, because many German corn processors and millers will not accept corn with GM contamination above 0.2% to 0.4%.
Weber defended his conclusion, saying the data are accurate and that it also was correct to use the European Union's benchmark for GM contamination. As for the issue of acceptable levels for the food industry, he said: "That is an issue that can be discussed in the future and a solution found."
The research project was coordinated by InnoPlanta in Gatersleben and the Bundesverband Deutscher Pflanzenzuechter (Federal Association of German Plant Breeders), with participation from private farmers and state agricultural institutes in Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt, according to InnoPlanta. The German Research Ministry and several state ministries provided financing.
Plant breeding companies Pioneer Hi-Bred Northern Europe, Monsanto Agar Deutschland GmbH, and KWS SAAT AG provided seeds and co-funding for corollary scientific work. Additional support in communications or financing came from Bayer CropScience, BASF Plant Science, Syngenta, and Deutsche Industrievereinigung Biotechnologie (DIB, German Association of Biotechnology Industries).
Supporters of GM crops used the test results as a springboard to publicize their views. Shortly after the press conference, Monsanto Agrar Deutschland issued a statement saying the test results supported Monsanto's opposition to a proposed liability fund that would be used to compensate non-GM farmers whose crops are contaminated from GM crops. Under the new law set to be approved later this week, planters of GM crops who are found to have contaminated adjacent non-GM fields can be held liable for damages even if they followed planting instructions and other regulations.
Helmut Heiderich, bio and genetic engineering expert in Parliament for the opposition CDU/CSU coalition, issued a statement saying the test results prove that GM crops can co-exist with non-GM crops without causing damage. He called on German Agriculture Minister Renate Künast, a prime backer of the new GM crop law, to accept the results and to quit trying to spread unease in the general German population about the danger of GM crops.
Links for this article
N. Stafford, "Law 'may stifle German science,'" The Scientist, June 28, 2004.
N. Stafford, "German GM wheat trials continue," The Scientist, April 13, 2004.
W. Eberhard Weber
Federal Association of German Plant Breeders