Germany starts move to ban GMO crops: ministry letter

By Hans-Edzard Busemann BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has initiated a move to stop the growing of genetically modified crops under new European Union rules, documents seen by Reuters showed on Monday. German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt has informed German state governments of his intention to tell the EU that Germany will make use of new "opt-out" rules to stop GMO crop cultivation even if varieties have been approved by the EU, a letter from the agriculture ministry seen by Reuters shows. A new EU law approved in March cleared the way for new GMO crops to be approved after years of previous deadlock. But the law also gave individual countries the right to opt out by banning GMO crops even after they have been approved as safe by the European Commission. Widely-grown in the Americas and Asia, GMO crops have divided opinion in Europe. Britain is among those in favor of them, while France and Germany are among those opposed. Previously, when the EU approved crops as safe to produce they had to be permitted for cultivation in all EU states. In the letter, the ministry stressed that Schmidt is continuing a previously-announced policy to keep a ban on GMOs in Germany. Under the new EU rules, countries have until Oct. 3, 2015, to inform the Commission that they wish to opt out of new EU GMO cultivation approvals, the ministry letter said. Schmidt has asked German state authorities to say by Sept. 11 whether their region should be included in the opt-out, the letter said. (Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann, writing by Michael Hogan, editing by David Evans)