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Co-existence measures and legal aspects
Minimum distances of 150 and 300 metres for GM maize
The Gene Technology Act is the legal basis for the cultivation of GM plants in Germany. Since 2004, it has been setting a framework of general rules on the co-existence of GM, conventional, and organic farming. In 2008 an amendment (the regulation on good farming practice for the cultivation of GM crops) came into effect. The cultivation provisions contained in it are designed to ensure that admixture between genetically modified and conventional or organic crops is largely prevented. Special provisions for maize cultivation are contained in an annex to the legislation, while similar cultivation provisions for potatoes are due to follow.
- Fields of GM and conventional maize must be separated by a distance of at least 150 metres. If organic maize is grown in the vicinity, the minimum distance will be 300 metres. Numerous field studies have shown that at these distances, potential contamination of conventional neighbouring fields with GM maize is extremely low, and well below the 0.9 percent threshold. According to EU law, adventitious GMO presence below this level does not require labelling.
- If a neighbouring maize farmer agrees, the minimum distance can be reduced or scrapped. In such cases certain rules will apply. For example, the farmer growing GM maize must formally notify his neighbour of all the possible legal consequences. The agreement must be recorded in the site register.
- The minimum distance can also be reduced for official cultivation experiments, provided the male inflorescences (tassels) are removed or covered with bags before flowering so that no pollen can escape. Farmers who plant GM crops will have to follow other rules in addition to those concerning separation distances:
- Duty to inform: A farmer who plans to sow genetically modified seed must inform neighbouring farms within 300 metres of the field in question three months before the intended sowing. The neighbour then has a month to respond and to inform the GMO farmer of his own cultivation plans.
- Precautions: During sowing, storage and transport the farmer must ensure that GM seed and harvested produce are not mixed with conventional products. For instance, farmers must use closed containers and carefully clean any machines used before reusing them for conventional seed or produce.
- Controlling volunteer plants: A farmer who grows GM crops must monitor the field after harvest and during the following cropping season to check that no leftover seeds germinate on a GMO field that is planted with conventional crops the following year.
- Records: Farmers must keep records of GM crop cultivation and cultivation measures.
- Crop rotation: A GM maize field may not be used for conventional maize until at least two years after the GM maize harvest.
- Farmers who plant GM crops will be jointly liable for loss of income suffered by neighbouring conventional farmers as a result of GMO presence, even if the individual cannot be shown to be at fault.
- A public register for GMO fields allows people to see the precise location of the fields online. Critics of this provision had pointed out that it is too easy for people intending to destroy fields to identify the fields with GM crops in the site register.
- Since the beginning of July 2008, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has complemented its public register of commercially-grown or trial-released genetically modified organisms with an interactive map. While allowing easy orientation in the geographical distribution of GM crops country-wide, the resolution also may be sharpened even to the community level. Cultivation areas are listed separately on additional spreadsheets and users may choose between the read-out of commercial or trial fields. Detailed information on individual fields are given via links to a data base.
Official index map on GM cultivation in Germany
More information: (in german language)
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