Last GM crop developer leaves German soil
BASF, the last firm still developing genetically modified crops in Germany is stopping its work, admitting defeat in the face of widespread European opposition to to the idea.
This follows decisions by Bayer and Syngenta to stop their genetically modified (GM) crop work in Germany over the last few years.
BASF’s plant biotechnology division will be moved to the United States, the group announced on Monday, completing what the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) described as an exodus of green biotech.
The 13 years it has taken for the European Union to approve BASF’s GM potato varieties Amflora, opposition from consumers and farmers and even attacks on some of the test fields all contributed to the decision to uproot the division, Stefan Marcinowski, BASF board member told the FTD.
“The framework conditions have deteriorated so far that we must acknowledge for the foreseeable future that we have no chance of a successful commercialisation of GM plants in Europe,” he said.
Globally, GM crops are seen as a growth industry, with a nearly 50 percent growth in the area of land under GM cultivation between 2006 and 2010, to reach 148 million hectares, the paper said, but added that most of this was in North and South America.
Europeans have largely accepted genetic engineering for the production of medicines, but concern rises when modified genetic organisms leave the laboratory and mix with conventional foodstuffs.
“We do not want these plants to get into the fields because they cannot be controlled,” said Dirk Zimmermann, biologist at environmental group Greenpeace.
The German biotech industry group (DIB) rejected the resistance as irrational. “The biotech companies will sooner or later draw their conclusions from the fact that in Germany and Europe, the outside cultivation of genetically modified plants has been hindered for many years for political or ideological reasons,” said Ricardo Gent, manager of the DIB.
BASF said it would continue the licensing procedure with the European authorities, but said 140 jobs would be lost.