Germany's high court today has upheld the country's law governing genetically modified (GM) crops. The law, originally passed in 2004 and modified slightly in 2008, holds farmers—and researchers—who plant GM crops liable for any pollen that escapes to neighbors' fields and makes any crops contaminated this way unmarketable as GM-free. It also requires a buffer zone between GM and conventional crops, and it mandates a public database that includes the locations of all GM plantings.
The German state of Saxony-Anhalt challenged the law's compatibility with Germany's Basic Law (the country's constitution), claiming it unduly limited farmers' "professional freedom," and that the database was an invitation to anti-GM activists to destroy crops. It also argued that the law turned any field trials of GM crops into an "incalculable economic risk" for seed companies.
But the national high court's ruling came down firmly on the side of the law's restrictions. "With the possibility to deliberately make changes in the genome, genetic engineering influences the elementary structures of life," the court wrote. "The consequences of such interventions can be, if any, difficult to undo."