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Coalition agreement

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 Key aspects of the agreement between the CDU, CSU and FDP are an endorsement of the cultivation of genetically modified Amflora starch potatoes, flexible, regionally determined minimum distances between fields with genetically modified crops and fields with conventional crops, and positive ‘GM-free’ labelling at European level. As far as the German cultivation ban on MON810 maize is concerned, the coalition intends to await the outcome of the ongoing court case.

Annette Schavan (CDU) is still Research Minister. In terms of research policy, the future government coalition intends to "develop further the accountable innovation potential of biotechnology and gene technology". The coalition sees "big opportunities for Germany as a research and industry location" in the fields of biotechnology and gene technology.

On the one hand, the agreement emphasises the fact that the coalition would like to achieve a stronger scientific orientation and more efficient EU approval procedures for GMOs in future. However, its intentions regarding the existing cultivation ban on MON810 maize remain unclear. Although leading scientific organisations and the Commission for Biological Safety in Germany consider the ban to be unjustified from a scientific point of view, all that the coalition partners managed to agree on initially in this case was to await the outcome of the ongoing court proceedings.

The agreement does not state a position on the issue of field trials with GM plants. A large number of biosafety research projects are conducted in the field in order to assess potential effects of GM plants under realistic conditions. However, in September, the Bavarian environment minister, Markus Söder (CSU), spoke out against field trials with genetically modified plants, claiming that the risks to the environment and population were simply too great.

The coalition partners want to change the Genetic Engineering Act to allow the federal states to set their own minimum separation distances between fields with genetically modified plants and fields with organic or conventional crops. The idea is to draw up a nationwide framework, although this is not defined in any more detail, so it is not yet clear whether such minimum distances will have to be based on scientific criteria in future.

The reaction of groups and associations to the agreements has been mixed. Germany’s organic food industry association (BÖLW) has severely criticised the agreements on plant biotechnology contained in the coalition agreement, saying it was "unbelievable" that a specific product produced by one company was mentioned in the agreement (the genetically modified Amflora potato). Greenpeace sees the agreement as evidence that the interests of corporations "clearly come before protection of the environment and people".

By contrast, the German Raiffeisen Association, an umbrella organisation that represents the interests of cooperatives in the German food and agriculture sector, welcomed the fact that the agreements promote the potential of plant biotechnology as an industry of the future. It claimed that this would make an important contribution to freedom of choice. What was needed now was to implement a legal framework in Germany and Europe that would prevent distortion of competition and would, in particular, make it feasible to work with European Community Law’s zero tolerance for GMOs not authorised in the EU.