Initiative mobilizes against genetic engineering

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The "Diversity Life" initiative demands: Stop agro-genetic engineering now

The German government apparently continues to stick to agro-genetic engineering: In 2011, too, the Amflora gene potato is subject to a cultivation permit. At the EU level, there are currently 28 authorization procedures for the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is despite the fact that, according to a survey commissioned by the Federal Environment Ministry, 87 percent of Germans reject green genetic engineering. Representatives of the Diversity Life Initiative therefore want to submit a petition to the German Bundestag in February. The goal: a cultivation moratorium for agro-genetic engineering. “Diversity life” is one of the largest alliances against agro-genetic engineering and for the preservation of diversity. On the initiative of Alnatura, over 100 partners (including WWF, Bioland, Rapunzel, Lebensbaum, Hess Natur, Weleda) work together. All consumers who are critical of genetic engineering are invited to use their voices to participate in the activities of diversity life. "Agro-genetic engineering is a risk to people and the environment," said Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, chairman of the Federal Organic Food Industry (BÖLW), petitioner of the public petition and political representative of the initiative. “It must be ensured that agriculture and food production are possible in the long term without agro-genetic engineering. And this technology must not be used for so long. "

In the opinion of opponents of genetic engineering, the moratorium is imperative because the previous authorization procedure for GMOs is inadequate and non-transparent. The responsible European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) does not carry out its own investigations, but only checks the studies carried out by the agro-industry itself. There are no meaningful long-term studies on the risks to the environment and health of genetically modified plants. On top of that, EFSA is denied a lack of neutrality on the subject of genetic engineering, because many experts from the EU authority have previously worked for the agro-industry. EFSA has never rejected an application for approval for genetically modified plants. The EU environment ministers therefore described the test methods for GM plants as inadequate.

Commercial cultivation of genetically manipulated plants began in 1996 in the United States. Since then, agro-genetic engineering has expanded rapidly, especially for high-yielding crops such as soybeans, corn, cotton and rapeseed. 25 countries are currently building genetically modified organisms, primarily the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada. The area under cultivation for GMO plants is declining within the EU. Genetically modified Bt maize (MON810) has been permitted here since 1998 and the Amflora gene potato has been approved for cultivation since 2010. The cultivation of MON810 is currently prohibited in Germany and seven other EU countries. In 2009, Federal Minister of Agriculture Ilse Aigner described the ban as a precautionary measure to protect consumers and said: "I conclude that there is good reason to believe that the genetically modified maize from the MON810 line poses a risk to the environment."

Agro-genetic engineering causes massive ecological, social and economic problems: The diversity in nature is demonstrably reduced through the use of genetic engineering; Farmers become economically dependent due to patented GM plants and organic farming is threatened in the medium term. Studies with Bt maize show that bacterial poison secreted by the gene plant also works against earthworms, butterflies and numerous beneficial insects. On top of that, the pest defense does not work as expected. After a while, insect pests, such as the cotton capsule borer, develop resistance to the poison that is constantly present in Bt maize.

The alleged advantage of these GM plants, namely the reduced use of chemical sprays, is therefore no longer applicable. Due to the increasing use of GMOs, even those farmers who do not want to have anything to do with genetic engineering are in trouble. Pollen flight, transport or storage can lead to unwanted contamination. This makes co-existence of agro-genetic engineering and GMO-free agriculture practically impossible. This is where the “Diversity Life” initiative comes in: the allies are committed to maintaining freedom of choice and diversity. At the start of the campaign at the Biofach trade fair on February 15, 2011 in Nuremberg, a multi-month signature campaign against agro-genetic engineering begins, aimed at Federal Minister Ilse Aigner. This will be accompanied by a public online petition. The subscription period is expected to start at the end of March 2011. The aim is to collect at least 50,000 signatures in the first three weeks in order to obtain a public hearing before the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag. On the central website of the campaign, interested parties can now find all the important information as well as the current dates and participation options. (pm)

Photo credits: Initiative's campaign logo.

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