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Genetic engineering law: German Federal Council calls for corrections
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The German Federal Council Bundesrat calls for comprehensive corrections and improvements to the draft of the new Genetic Engineering Act (Opt out). The chairman of the organic association "Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft" (BÖLW), Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, comments: "Today, the federal states have taken on the worries of tens of thousands of non-GM farmers, producers and traders. With the improvements that the Federal Council has requested today, the Genetic Engineering Act would be much better. The Bundestag now has to comply with the country's appeal."
The law could not be applied at all
"The rules for ban on cultivation are too complex and bureaucratic in the draft law. The law could not be applied at all", Löwenstein says. The countries have also rightly criticized the fact that, according to the draft law, constructs from novel genetic engineering methods such as CRISPR and Co. are allowed to be released into the environment in Germany. And even while the European Court of Justice is examining whether and which of these procedures need to be regulated as genetic engineering.
Precautionary principle must be respected
"Only a law that permits effective genetic engineering bans and respects the precautionary principle is a good law. If the weak points of the current draft are not remedied, the Bundestag and the Federal Council must stop the emergency brake and stop the legislative process", he claims.
Whether and which genetically modified plants are allowed to be cultivated in Europe is the decision of the European Union in a controversial procedure. In 2014, it was agreed that individual member states should be able to opt for national GMO cultivation bans more easily - the "opt-out". This decision is currently being transposed into national law.
Last year, the federal states had already introduced their own bill, which would allow the federal government to make uniform ban on cultivation of genetically modified organisms. The SPD government party and all SPD-led provincial governments have repeatedly voiced their opinion on uniform genetic engineering ban on the whole of Germany. The draft of a 4th law amending the Genetic Engineering Act submitted by the BMEL (Agriculture Ministery) was discussed on 2 December at first reading in the Bundestag. The SPD parliamentary assembly called for substantial changes. A hearing in the Bundestag on the subject is scheduled for 16 January.
In its opinion, the Federal Council called on Parliament to make the following corrections in the draft law (meeting on 16 December, TOP 31, see # top-31:
- Deletion of the complicated voting system with six federal ministries (§ 16f);
- removing the need to provide a statement of reasons when GMOs are requested to exempt Germany voluntarily from the application for authorization for a genetically modified plant ("Phase I", § 16f);
- taking over an active role by the Confederation in the search for prohibited grounds (§ 16h);
- Repeal of prohibitions on cultivation (§ 16i): analogous to the introduction of prohibitions on cultivation, a majority in the Federal Council must be a prerequisite for the abolition ("opt in").
In the opinion of BÖLW, the following point should also be corrected:
- Deletion of the passage on novel genetic engineering procedures such as CRISPR-Cas in the explanatory statement. It must be clarified that no national authorization of such procedures - or of their organisms - may be carried out before a genetic classification has been carried out at EU level.