Germany says no to Monsanto's corn

A protester holds up a placard during a demonstration advocating a ban on the planting of genetically-modified corn in Berlin, Germany.

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Kai Ryssdal: The start of the German corn planting season is just days away. And that makes the issue of what farmers there can actually put in the ground somewhat more urgent. This morning the German government banned a particular strain of genetically-modified corn that's manufactured by the U.S. biotechnology firm Monsanto. The technical name is MON810. But more to the point, Monsanto's sales pitch is that it's resistant to something called the corn-borer caterpillar. The German government prefers to put it this way: That the product presents a danger to the environment. From the Marketplace European Desk in London, Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: MON810 is Monsanto's foot in the door in Europe. It's the only GM crop the EU has approved for commercial use. But Germany has now joined France, Greece, Austria and Hungary and banned it. Anti-GM campaigners across the continent are rejoicing. Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth in Britain.

CLARE OXBORROW: Well, this is fantastic news. This is part of a growing political movement now against GMOs, which is now following the public opposition that there's always been in Europe.

But GM supporters claim that Europe is still divided over the issue. Professor Vivian Moses of a British group called Crop Gen:

VIVIAN MOSES: There are countries -- Spain and the Czech Republic -- which are growing these materials already. And Slovakia and Portugal. So it's not as if Europe is unitary in its rejection.

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Monsanto said today that it was disappointed by the German decision, which it described as "unscientific." But spokesman Lee Quarles denied that the company would suffer any financial hardship as a result of the German ban.

LEE QUARLES: Europe actually doesn't factor into our financial models simply because of the very action that was taken today. It's a highly unpredictable, uncertain marketplace that does not appear to have a functioning regulatory system.

Nevertheless, the anti-GM campaigners are still rejoicing. They claim that European resistance to GM crops is growing and that is sending a signal around the world warning about the potential dangers of this technology.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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