New German law will help to keep Europe GMO free
Friends of the Earth Europe
Press release
For immediate release

Brussels, 26 November. Friends of the Earth Europe today welcomed the adoption by the German Parliament (Bundestag) of a new law that protects consumers and farmers against the risks of genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. The law introduces the principle that GM farmers and GM operators are financially liable for economic damage caused if their crops contaminate non-GM products.

The most important provisions of the law are:

* In case of economic damage (e.g. when organic or conventional farmers cannot sell their products due to the presence of GM material), the neighbouring farmers growing GM crops are liable.
* If it is not clear which farmer has caused the contamination the principle of joint liability of all neighbouring GMO farmers will apply. That means a farmer who has sustained damage will be free to decide which neighbour to claim compensation from.
* A register with precise information about where GM crops are intended to be released will be publicly available.

Friends of the Earth believe that these provisions will give GM farmers and GM operators a strong incentive not to contaminate neighbouring fields, thus helping to ensure the freedom of choice for the overwhelming majority of German and EU consumers that do not want to eat GM foods.

Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This law is good news for hundreds of millions of Europeans who do not wish to participate in the biggest biological experiment of our time and who want to eat food that is GM-free. This law should now be the benchmark for similar legislation in other EU member states."

Nevertheless, the German law also contains loopholes and could still be improved. Most importantly, the law hardly covers damage to the environment as a result of GM crops. In effect, the protection that the law offers for ecologically sensitive zones is restricted to Natura 2000 areas, which only form 2,5 % of the surface of Germany. Field trials, the use and handling of GM crops in such areas are only allowed if GMOs don't damage the environment. An open question is how a competent authority can prove that GMOs threaten the environment in a way that a ban in a special area is justified.

Friends of the Earth is concerned that the European Commission might want to overrule the German law by taking Germany to the European Court of Justice. In a leaked document (available from Friends of the Earth) from July 2004 the Commission already hinted in this direction. Friends of the Earth firmly believes that the European Commission should not threaten the protective measures and civil rights that the German Parliament has put in place.

Contact: Geert Ritsema, Friends of the Earth Europe: mobile 00 31 (0)6 290 05 908
Heike Moldenhauer: BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany: 00 49 (0)30-275 86 456 or +49-(0)179-8138088 (mobile)

An English summary of the German law is available from this website of the German Federal Ministry of Consumer protection and Agriculture: