BASF to End Production of GM Crop Production in the European Union
German firm says hostility from consumers is the reason for the move.
German chemical company BASF today (16 January) announced that it is stopping production of genetically modified (GM) crops for the European market, citing hostility from consumers as the reason for the decision.
“There is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe – from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians,” said Stefan Marcinowski, a member of BASF's board. “It does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market.”
The company will move its plant-science unit from Limburgerhof in Germany to the United States. It will also close other sites in Germany and Sweden.
BASF said it has already halted work on the Amflora potato, a GM crop licensed by the European Commission in 2010. The potato was later withdrawn from the market after an unapproved GM variety was discovered. BASF's withdrawal from the market leaves Monsanto's MON810 maize as the only remaining GM crop authorised for cultivation in the EU.
The decision is likely to affect discussions in the Council of Ministers on a Commission proposal to allow member states to impose national bans on GM crops that have been authorised at EU level.
Member states are divided on the issue, and the proposal aims to allow the Commission to increase authorisations while at the same time allowing sceptical member states to opt out. But green campaign groups have said this piecemeal approach will not work because crops in countries that have not authorised GM can easily be contaminated by GM varieties grown in neighbouring countries.
BASF said that although it no longer intended to market GM crops in Europe, the regulatory approval process for products that the firm has already submitted applications for will continue. It will also continue some plant-science research at facilities in Ghent and Berlin.
Several GM varieties have been approved for importation into the EU, but only Amflora and MON810 have been approved for cultivation. No GM crop has yet been approved by the EU for human consumption, they are instead being used by industry and as animal feed. GM crops are widely used in other markets, including the United States.
Adrian Bebb of environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth Europe said BASF's decision was an “embarrassment” for John Dalli, the European commissioner for health, who he said has been pushing for increased GM use in the EU. “This is another nail in the coffin for genetically modified foods in Europe,” he said. “No one wants to eat them and few farmers want to grow them.” The Commission said it would not comment on a decision by a private company.
Some German MEPs deplored the fact that the uncertain regulatory situation was resulting in the loss of scientific research in Europe. Werner Langen, a German centre-right MEP, said the decision by BASF “shows that the patchwork of national regulations made in this field has made Europe an unattractive location” for GM research, adding that GM should be actively promoted in Europe.
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A study by Friends of the Earth International:
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ProQuest/CSA site on GM Food: