Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pet Food Global: Germany - No more GMO's in food

The, an on-line news magazine providing compelling print and online coverage of the latest developments in the life sciences including research, technology and business to active researchers, recently reported under “Germany bans genetically-modified maize: super resistant crop not welcome” that Germany, following France, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg and Greece is the 6th European nation to ban genetically modified corn. The ban concerns the American biotech company Monsanto, which until recently was the only importer allowed bringing it’s genetically modified product into the country. In detail the magazine reported:

“Germany became Tuesday the sixth European Union nation to ban a type of genetically-modified maize manufactured by US biotech giant Monsanto, the only GM crop permitted until now in the country. Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told reporters she was outlawing the cultivation of MON 810 maize -- modified to be super resistant against crop-destroying insects -- on environmental grounds.

"I have come to the conclusion there are just reasons to assume that the genetically-modified maize MON 810 represents a danger for the environment," Aigner said. "Therefore, the cultivation of MON 810 is now banned in Germany." The environment ministry had undertaken a "rigorous study to weigh the pros and cons," she said, adding that "new scientific elements" had come to light justifying the decision to ban the GM crop.

Fields containing genetically-modified corn make up a mere 0.2 percent of Germany's total maize-producing land -- with only 3,700 hectares (9,100 acres) of land sown with GM maize. The decision underlines political heavyweight Germany's role in the camp of European countries sceptical about genetically-modified produce -- dubbed Frankenfoods by their opponents.

Germany is the sixth EU country to introduce a provisional ban on MON 810, following similar action taken by France, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg and Greece. The European Commission sought to force Austria and Hungary to reverse their bans on the crop but its ruling was overturned by a majority of EU nations last month.

Spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau said: "the Commission will analyse the ban by Germany and ... decide on the most appropriate follow-up to this situation." German environmental groups hailed Tuesday's decision. "This is a welcome change of course from the environment ministry. Neither German consumers nor farmers want genetically-modified plants," said Leif Miller, head of Germany's Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, NABU. "A ban on MON 810 was overdue and is an important step in the right direction."

However, Annette Schavan, Germany's education minister, said she regretted Aigner's decision, noting that the European Food Safety Agency had declared MON 810 safe. Schavan stressed that genetic research in Germany must not be affected by today's decision. Aigner said earlier the decision was an "individual case" and was not a "fundamental decision about future policies relating to green genetic technology."

According to the US lobby group ISAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech), the use of GM crops worldwide is steadily increasing. Around 125 million hectares contained genetically-modified plants in 2008, a rise of almost 10 percent on the previous year, according to ISAA statistics. Some 13.3 million farmers sowed GM crops last year, 1.3 million more than in 2007, the group said. Seventy-two percent of soya was genetically modified worldwide along with nearly half the planet's wool production.”

Susan Thixton of spotted the topic and researched the issue further as to how it relates to the US. Under “Germany Bans GM Corn (thank you!)” she reports what she found out:

“The U.S. FDA on the other hand, told Monsanto in 1996:” This is in regard to Monsanto's consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (Center for Veterinary Medicine and Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition) on genetically modified corn, specifically transformation event MON 810. According to Monsanto, the new corn variety has been modified for resistance to the European Corn Borer through expression of the cryIA(b) gene from Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki.

Monsanto submitted a summary assessment of corn containing transformation event MON 810 on June 6, 1996. This communication informed FDA of the steps taken by Monsanto to ensure that the product complies with the legal and regulatory requirements that fall within FDA's jurisdiction. Based on the safety and nutritional assessment you have conducted, it is our understanding that Monsanto has concluded that corn products derived from this new variety are not materially different in composition, safety, and other relevant parameters from corn currently on the market, and that the genetically modified corn does not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA. All materials relevant to this notification have been placed in a file designated BNF0034. This file will be maintained in the Office of Premarket Approval.

Based on the information Monsanto has presented, we have no further questions concerning corn grain or fodder containing transformation event MON 810 at this time. However, as you are aware, it is Monsanto's responsibility to ensure that foods marketed by the firm are safe, wholesome and in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements.”

Just in case you don’t believe it, here’s the link to a copy of the original letter published on the FDA’s website:

Susan concludes: “The FDA does not require pet food or human food labels to inform consumers if a product contains a GM grain. We can only hope that one day our elected representatives in Washington will consider the interest of citizens (and our pets) over the concerns of industries.”

Allow me a sarcastic comment at this point: I doubt there will be any change soon, the industry’s lobbying efforts are too powerful for that to happen and so, at least in my opinion, all remains wishful thinking. However, with so many citizens concerned about socialism being just around the corner due to our new government, maybe it is after all not too far away. Just kidding, no politics on this blog, I will ignore any and all further comments on this.

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