The German agricultural minister, Horst Seehofer, has agreed with CDU and SPD coalition partners on an amendment of the current Gene Technology Act. According to press reports, the agreement includes new regulations for the Good Farming Practice applicable to genetically modified plants, and defines the minimum distance between conventional maize fields and GM maize as 150 metres. To organic fields, the minimum distance has been set at 300 metres.
A core part of the draft is comprised of rules for the Good Farming Practice for the cultivation of genetically modified plants. These rules are aimed at preventing the admixture of GM with conventional or biological cultivations, and detailed instructions for the cultivation of maize are given in an appendix.
A heated debate within the coalition parties was sparked in regard to the subject of isolation distances. However, the coalition was able to agree on a distance of 150 metres between GM and conventional maize fields. In the case of neighbouring organic cultivation, the required distance is doubled to 300 metres. Regulations on liability and the site registration of GM cultivations remain unchanged. Farmers cultivating GM plants are still responsible for economic losses due to GM traces in neighbouring conventional fields – even when the farmers are in compliance with the guidelines of the Good Farming Practice.
Vice president of the SPD faction, Ulrich Kelber, rated the agreement as positive: “We are highly satisfied by obtaining an isolation distance of 300 metres to neighbouring organic fields.” He added that such isolation distances “will lead to the abandonment of the application of green biotechnology in many regions.” In contrast, Member of the Parliament Katherina Reiche (CDU) stated that the isolation distance of 300 metres is “scientifically completely unfounded”.
The Agricultural Minister Seehofer plans to submit the draft to the Federal Cabinet on 8th of August 2007. If the ministers agree on the new regulations, the draft will be brought to the parliament after the summer recess.