Seeds Of Truth

I have learned over the past decade if I want to know what's really going on in the United States, I have to cruise through the foreign media to see what's creating a furor or causing a stink. So, while searching for the status of Spain's on-again, off-again criminal proceedings against six Bush Administration war criminals, this headline in Der Spiegel caught my eye -- "Frankenfood Ban is Neither Populism nor Panic-Mongering."

A closer look at the article revealed it wasn't a Norm Coleman ploy to get folks in Minnesota to quit eating burgers and fries, nor a menu for the genetically obscene monster in Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein," but an announcement by Germany's Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner that Germany is banning the cultivation of MON 810, a genetically modified (GM) corn produced by US biotech giant Monsanto.

The GM Monster

It appears that MON 810 is also believed to be the "Frankenstein" of GM crops by at least five other European countries -- France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg -- all of whom have banned its use. MON 810 was approved by the European Union in 1998, and was the only GM crop approved for cultivation in Germany. Aigner said she had legitimate reasons to believe that the genetically modified Monsanto seed "presents a danger to the environment." The plant produces a toxin that not only destroys the larvae of the corn borer moth, but other, beneficial, insects as well.

Andreas Thierfelder, spokesman for Monsanto Germany, responded that Monsanto would decide "as quickly as possible" whether to take legal proceedings. She said the "matter was very urgent as the planting season was about to start." Just how urgent was evident days later when Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the German government, claiming that its ban on MON 810 is arbitrary and contravenes EU rules. Although Monsanto sued France in an effort to overturn its ban on genetically modified corn, and lost that battle in March when France's highest court ruled that the corn "may" harm the environment and wildlife, the German government is justifiably edgy, as it must prove conclusively to the German court that MON 810 damages the environment.