MON810 sales stopped in Germany

[img_assist|nid=75|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=65]German authorities stopped the sales of Monsanto's GM maize MON810 till Monsanto submits a new monitoring plan for environmental effects because of new scientific knowledge that MON810 has bigger adverse effects on the environment then expected.
However, because the decision was only taken shortly after the maize sowings, the cultivation of MON810 maize will probably not affected this year. Nevertheless, the decision is important for the further assessment of MON810 in the EU.

Monsanto's GM maize was already approved for cultivation in the EU in 1998, but was only grown since 2003 in Spain and since 2006 in some other EU countries, mainly German. Here, adding MON810 varieties to the national seed list at the end of 2005 was one of the first acts of the new government.

Accodring to the German Authority for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) new scientific research shows to which degree the Bt toxin of MON810 can get into the food chain, and that it is now proven that also non-target organisms such as predatory insects on higher levels of the food net can be subject to the Bt toxin.

At the moment, Monsanto just asks farmers to fill in surveys with general information about their MON810 cultivation and other agricultural parameters, but according to the German authority these surveys are not sufficient to collect information for statistical evaluation about effects on the environment and especially on non-target organisms.

the authorities therefore requested that Monsanto would develop a monitoring plan that takes the following issues into account:
a) exposition of germinable maize seeds in the environment (harvest, transport and processing losses),
b) exposition of the Bt toxin in the environment (for example through pollen, silage, plant residues in the soil),
c) fate of Bt toxin in the soil of fields; effects on soil organisms and soil functions,
d) effects on non-target organisms on the fields and in affected habitats in the surroundings of the fields,
e) long-term and large-scale effects on biodiversity,
f) fate of the transgenes (persistence and accumulation) in organisms and environmental substances,
g) development of secondary pests,
h) changes in pesticide applications (type of pesticide, volume, frequency and application date),
i) effects on food webs.

The effect of these requests for a monitoring goes beyond the current situation in Germany. The cultivation approval for MON810 was given for a period of 10 years - till 2008 - and therefore MON810 is currently again assessed by the EU authorities.
In several cases for GM crops that are not yet approved, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considered the kind of surveys that Monsanto undertakes for MON810 sufficient as Monitoring Plans. But now the German authority states that it should not be a problem for Monsanto to develop such a new monitoring plan because the company needs to develop a further monitoring plan anyway for the current re-approval procedure. Clearly the re-assessment of MON810 has become more than a pro-forma application.

The new ruling in German is not a total ban, and apparently does not concern the maize that was already sown, but other countries such as Hungary, Austria and Polen have completely banned MON810 for different reasons.

In the German state of Bavaria a court decided in May against Bt pollen in honey. According to the judge, the owner of the farm, the Bavarian authorities, have to ensure that the MON810 pollen does not get into the honey: for example by removing the maize before it flowers or by cutting of the pollen producing parts.

In the Netherlands, a two-year field trial is underway to show over which distance MON810 contaminates conventional and organic maize fields. These field trials are criticized by organisations such as Biologica because they could have done just as well with conventional maize, and because they lead to unnecessary risks and unsolved issues like liability.

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