Neues Deutschland (Berlin), January 8, 2004

Protest against genetic engineered food

Interview with Philipp Mimkes, Coalition against BAYER-dangers

By the end of last year the "Coalition against BAYER-dangers" called for protests in front of Metro stores, because this trade giant, together with Monsanto and Bayer, intended to start a campaign to introduce genetically modified food into Germany. What is the present state of your campaign ?

We experienced a surprising success - Metro gave in. The company agreed to offer only food without any genetic manipulation. This is applicable to all companies which form part of the Metro Group including Kaufhof, extra, Real and others. The threat of a joint campaign in support of genetic engineering by Metro and the leading producer in this field, Bayer and Monsanto, seems to have receded for the time being.

How was this settlement achieved in such a short period of time?

The protests against Metro´s pro-GM activities started some months back after minutes of a confidential meeting of the companies were made public. Especially Greenpeace announced a number of protests. This certainly influenced the decision of Metro. Companies follow economic principles and a campaign of environmental groups affects their image.

For the time being no genetic engineered food will be sold in German supermarkets. In which way will consumers be affected by the possible cancellation of the EU moratorium on genetic engineered food?

The majority of genetic engineered plants is not eaten by people but animals. This is not part of Metro´s memorandum of understanding. Through consumption by animals, genetically engineered products enter the human nutrition circle via milk, eggs, meat and butter anyway. Whether this endangers human health is so far unknown. In case of a cancellation of the EU moratorium we fear that genetically engineered plants will be grown in large areas. In Saxony-Anhalt the provincial government tries to implement a first phase of commercial growing with the participation of Bayer and BASF. This will lead to known risks for the environment and especially affects organic farming. At present - especially if you take the missing legal framework into account - organic farming is threatened in its existence.

The legal framework for the introduction and growth of genetic engineered plants is basically agreed upon by the EU Commission. What can still be done?

In Germany the implementation of the legal framework is not yet fully designed. Therefore we target not only trading and genetic engineering companies but also the politicians, especially at a national level.

Do you think the German Red-Green government will consider the arguments of the opponents of genetic engineering?

The Chancellery and the ministry of economy follow the line of the GM industry and support the broad introduction of genetic engineering techniques in agriculture. The ministry on consumer issues is more sensitive to the topic, but has little power in comparison with the other role-players. The majority of consumers is against genetically engineered food. Decisions made in the next month are viable for the option of at least having a choice which food we want to consume in the future.