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German Greens Roll Over on GM Food

nolympics writes:

This from AFP; readers will remember the German greens' u-turn on nuclear power a couple of years ago, accepting that it too is here to stay.

"German Greens Roll Over on GM Food"

BERLIN: Germany is drawing up a law to regulate cultivation of bio-engineered crops, Consumer Minister Renate Kuenast said, admitting that the controversial technology was here to stay.

Kuenast, a member of the pro-enviromentalist Greens party, said the government saw no consumer health risks in genetically modified (GM) foods.

"With or without a law, bio-technology is on the market," she told a press conference.

The law would effectively put into action existing EU directives on exactly what can be grown, where and under what conditions, and on labelling.

Germany, where the pro-environmentalist Greens are a part of the governing coalition, has long been seen as among the countries most sceptical about the technology.

Kuenast said the law would set clear rules and responsibilities on growing bio-crops and offer protection to those farmers whose non-GM produce might be affected by accidental contamination.

Clear labelling would also increase consumer choice by informing them about exactly what they were buying.

She said the bill, to be approved by the cabinet in February, was "a great success for consumers and farmers" after months of negotiations.

Kuenast said ground rules were needed for the cultivation of GM crops in Germany because of the growing use of bio-technology worldwide. She warned of a danger of "creeping infiltration" of such foodstuffs into the country without any labelling if no action is taken.

The law stipulates that farmers growing GM crops must protect neighbouring farmers growing non-GM produce, such as by erecting hedge barriers to prevent cross-pollination.

Compensation would be paid in case of accidental contamination.

Local registers would list all bio-crop producers, who would not be allowed to plant the seeds in or near ecologically sensitive areas.

"The law is a breakthrough. Personally I'm very pleased with this success. For the first time, it will give consumers freedom of choice and farmers will have safe guidelines," she told Monday's issue of the Berliner Zeitung daily.

The European Commission is expected later this year to lift a four-year ban on the import of GM sweet corn, seen as a test case that could pave the way for the authorisation of new GM produce.

Opponents of GM technology say it is being pushed by big corporations with little knowledge about the long-term impact on health and the environment.

Advocates argue that the novel crops could greatly increase yields and help alleviate global hunger, particularly if GM strains could be developed to cope with climate change.