Germany bans GM maize

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The agriculture minister banned the product on environmental grounds.

Berlin -- Germany said Tuesday it was banning a type of genetically-modified maize manufactured by US biotech giant Monsanto, until now the only GM crop permitted 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 harvesting of GM crops -- dubbed Frankenfoods by their opponents -- has become a hotly-contested issue throughout Europe and provoked a split in the 27-member European Union.

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 last month, its ruling was overturned by a majority of EU nations, with only five countries supporting the EU executive.

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, the move could upset Washington, which has warned Europe against using environmental issues as an excuse for protectionism amid disputes over issues ranging from biotechnology to greenhouse gas emissions.


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