Another trial field of GM maize destroyed

“There is no alternative to the transparency and neutrality of experimental planting.”

Radical opponents of genetic engineering have destroyed parts of a trial field of genetically modified maize near Forchheim (Karlsruhe district). The site, which includes a plot of GM maize measuring about three hectares, is part of the coexistence research programme of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV).

Destroyed: Opponents of genetic engineering systematically destroyed Bt maize plants on part of the trial site in Forchheim.

Forchheim trial site: The BMELV coexistence research programme is studying pollen drift and incrossing rates. Areas with a clover/grass mix or barley are arranged between the Bt maize plots (front) and the conventional maize. Around ten per cent of the Bt maize plants were destroyed.

The project, which is coordinated by the Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL), is investigating pollen drift and GMO incrossings. The aim is to use the data to develop effective coexistence concepts and recommendations for minimum separation distances between GM and conventional maize.

The nighttime attack resulted in about ten percent of the GM plants being trampled. It should nevertheless still be possible to evaluate parts of the trial, since the maize had already started flowering in the warm climate of the Upper Rhine. The male Bt maize flowers had already released their pollen and fertilised the female flowers. Any incrossings into conventional maize plants had already taken place by the time part of the Bt maize crop was destroyed.

The agriculture minister for Baden-Württemberg, Hauck, and Federal Agriculture Minister Seehofer both condemned the attack. “The destruction of deliberate release trials hinders research findings, which we urgently need to understand the future of green genetic engineering”, said Seehofer. Both those in favour of and those against genetic engineering should accept research findings. “There is no alternative to the transparency and neutrality of experimental planting, which of course cannot take place only under controlled laboratory conditions”.

Several Bt maize fields have been destroyed already this year, including cultivar trials being conducted by the Federal Office of Plant Varieties in Dachwig (Thüringen) and Ladenburg (Baden-Württemberg) and trial fields that were part of biosafety research.