MON810 maize is genetically engineered to produce Bacillus thuringiensis, which is toxic to the corn borer pest. Permitted in Europe since 1998 for animal feed, it is marketed as a way to save farmers money on insecticides and other pest controls.
However German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner claimed last week that she had “legitimate reasons” to believe the maize to be a danger to the environment – and believes the Environment Ministry to agree with the view. Although MON810 has been permitted in Germany since 2005, she scrapped plans for 3,600 hectares (8,892 acres) to be planted in the eastern states for this summer's harvest.
Now the biotech giant has hit back, according to a Reuters article, filing a lawsuit against the Germany government in the administrative court in Braunschweig, northern Germany.
The wire quotes a spokesperson for Monsanto as saying the ban is “arbitrary”. A clause in EU law does allow member states to impose such a ban, but Monsanto claims they can only do so once a plant has already been approved if new scientific evidence has come to light.
If the outcome of the lawsuit is in Monsanto’s favour, the cost to the German government has been estimated at between €6m and €7m.
Aigner, a member of the Christian Social Union, has denied that the decision to ban the MON810 plantings is politically motivated. She said the ban is an individual case, and should not be taken as an indication of future policy on genetically modified crops.
Germany is not the only country to have banned MON810. France also invoked the clause on new scientific evidence that cast doubt over its safety last year.
However a review conducted by the European Food Safety Authority, requested by the European Commission, concluded that “in terms of risk to human and animal health and the environment, the provided information package does not present new scientific evidence that would invalidate the previous risk assessments of maize MON810”.
Other countries to implement bans are Hungary and Austria. Last month European ministers voted – for the fourth time – against forcing these countries to lift their bans, despite EFSA’s view.