German GM research—a personal account

Abstract

volume 27 number 4 april 2009 nature biotechnology (refs. 6,7). This time around, it was harder to find a field site—a problem I had little to do with, fortunately. It was impossible to find a suitable site in NorthRhine-Westfalia, so we looked south. We found a suitable site and hospitable hosts in Bavaria, a southern federal state of Germany with a government very progressive on the future role of GM plants in agriculture (back then at least). Everything went well over the next 3 years of research, although the number of field-release and other field experiments in Germany being destroyed by activists gradually increased as time passed, and we even had to spend an entire weekend out in the field because of fears it might be paid a visit by ‘field liberators’. Driving the 800 km to and back from the field site was strenuous. Over the course of the project, I spent three whole months driving eight hours every working day. I recently finished my PhD and I am still doing research on Bt corn. Again in a consortium with a grant from the BMBF, we are assessing the potential ecological impacts of MON89034 × MON88017. Finding a site for the field release was outstandingly difficult; eventually, we were accommodated by a German federal institution. Now, we are traveling 420 km every time we drive to or from the field. The change of locality was necessary because our original plans to remain in Bavaria were shattered when the Bavarian State Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry decided that this kind of research was no longer wanted in Bavaria. Since elections were held last September and public opinion was decidedly against plant biotech, the ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) thought it was best not to invite us again to do our research in Lower Frankonia. Allowing us to continue would definitely have compromised their reputation as being ‘close to the people’. This was regrettable on several levels, especially as the local officials who had been directly working with us there were eager to continue the collaboration. They saw the scientific research we were doing, and planned to do, as a prerequisite for public acceptance of plant biotech. The fact is, at the moment, there is currently no public acceptance of plant biotech in Germany. The reason is simple: fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)8. Fear that some unforeseeable major disaster will definitely come true. Uncertainty over the social and economic consequences of the large-scale cultivation of GM plants and over further development of the health biotech sector in Brazil.

DOI: 10.1038/nbt0409-318

Cite this paper

@article{Rauschen2009GermanGR, title={German GM research—a personal account}, author={Stefan Rauschen}, journal={Nature Biotechnology}, year={2009}, volume={27}, pages={318-319} }