Germany to abstain at EU vote on new GMO maize

by Reuters
Wednesday, 5 February 2014 15:37 GMT

* German coalition undecided on GMO policy

* Upcoming EU meeting may not be able to make decision

HAMBURG, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Germany will abstain in a European Union vote on the cultivation of a type of genetically modified maize, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, which opposition politicians say may lead to EU approval to farm the new crop.

The vote covers an insect-resistant maize, known as Pioneer 1507, developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical . If approved, it would end Monsanto's current monopoly in Europe's small market for GMO crops.

The EU has only ever approved two other GMO crops for commercial cultivation, a maize type and a potato, but the potato was later blocked by a court.

The European Commission proposed in November that EU governments approve the new maize type and a vote is expected on Tuesday next week.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "The German government has agreed to abstain ... It is normal procedure to abstain on a dossier where there are different opinions within the government on the matter."

EU diplomats expect the meeting of EU ministers to fail to reach a definitive agreement and under the EU's decision-making process, a deadlock would allow the executive Commission to then make a final decision.

"The abstention ... by the federal government opens the way for approval of the genetically modified maize type 1507 in the European Union," said Alexander Bonde, the opposition Green Party's state consumer protection minister in the south German Baden-Wuerttemberg state government.

Germany's new grand coalition government is still developing its policy on the cultivation of GMO crops, German agriculture minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Jan. 16.

The coalition contract for the government formed in December made no mention of whether it will continue a previous policy restricting GMO growing. The draft coalition contract said the parties had been unable to agree on the issue.

Germany's stance is a blow for France which opposes the GMO and lobbied Germany heavily on the issue, notably during a visit of the German farm minister to Paris in early January.

"We take note of the German decision," a French farm ministry official said. "This does not question France's position which clearly remains to keep a ban on genetically modified organisms."

Britain's farm minister has called for a yes vote for cultivation of the maize type.

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