[DE] German cabinet approves guidelines on co-existence

The German federal government has agreed to the key points for the amendment and supplementation of the existing Gene Technology Act. The amendments, proposed by the federal Minster of Agriculture, Horst Seehofer, outline rules on co-existence for the cultivation of GM plants in German agriculture. These include the requirement of a distance of 150 metres between cultivation areas of GM and conventional plants. Farmers must inform their neighbours of the intention to use GM plants and must consider the specific cultivation plans for neighbouring fields.

Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer (Photo: Deutscher Bundestag)
Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer (Photo: Deutscher Bundestag)
The guidelines include plans for a new regulation defining the policy of Good Farming Practice, as well as changes in some paragraphs in the existing Gene Technology Act. According to the revision, farmers of GM plants will continue to be liable to neighbouring conventional farmers for economic losses resulting from the presence of GMO traces. However, plans exist to specify and reduce such cases of liability to major damage only. This includes cases in which a neighbouring farmer may be unable to market a harvest due to GM traces, or if the GM content of a specific harvest is above the labelling requirement of 0.9 percent and, therefore, must be sold at a lower price. Another criteria for liability is proposed for cases in which GM traces make it impossible to use regulated labels such as "without genetic engineering".

Locally, users of GM plants continue to be jointly accountable, even when bearing no individual personal responsibility for damage in neighbouring fields. Aiming to release farmers from the risks of possible economic losses, which may occur even when following the rules of the good farming practice, associations within the seed and biotechnology industry are striving towards a system of voluntary committment.

To reduce the risk of liability in field trials and research, it is planned to allow the use and the processing of harvested products, even when they contain traces of GM plants. However, the lawmakers have installed the prerequisite that these products not be used in the food- and feed chain but in other areas such as energy production.

In the future, the site register of all GM cultivation areas still will contain information on the local subdistrict, although data on a specific field only will be provided to parties who prove a legitimate interest.

The federal government must bring the key paper in the form of a draft legislation to the parliament.





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