Baden-Württemberg election: parties controversial on GMOs

- Will genetic engineering be an election issue? In Baden-Württemberg, among other places, the German super election year 2021 starts on March 14. The local Action Alliance for GMO-Free Agriculture asked the parties about their positions on genetic engineering in the run-up to the state election. The Greens, CDU, SPD and FDP responded - and quite controversially.

Winfried Kretschmann, Photo: Ministry of State Baden-Württemberg, License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Greens: Moving agriculture and society closer together - GMO-free

In their answer, the Greens, party of the ruling Minister President Winfried Kretschmann, express themselves very clearly in favor of GMO-free agriculture in Baden-Württemberg, against GMO cultivation permits, and also against field trials. In canteens and cafeterias of state institutions, the Greens want to prioritize organic and "Ohne GenTechnik" (Non GMO) products. The party also points out that genetically modified food and feed are not accepted by society - but that it is "high time for agriculture and society to move closer together again".

CDU emphasizes "potential" of new genetic engineering

The current junior coalition partner, the CDU (conservative party), is wordily evading the question of GM-free canteens, stating only very briefly that it wants to "in principle adhere" to GM-free animal feed in state facilities. Otherwise, the CDU expressly emphasizes the potential of new genetic engineering and research into it. The party therefore does not want to speak out against GMO cultivation permits and field trials.

SPD against field trials and cultivation approvals

The SPD (social democrat party), on the other hand, responds clearly and concisely in a distinctly GMO-critical way, in favor of freedom from GMOs in state facilities and against field trials and cultivation approvals. In particular, soy is mentioned, the increased cultivation of which in Baden-Württemberg and in Germany as a whole is otherwise welcomed by the Social Democrats.

FDP in favor of deregulation and cultivation

In contrast, the FDP (liberal democratic party) , which traditionally has an affinity for genetic engineering, wants what it calls a "progress-oriented" re-regulation or deregulation, especially of new GMOs and their labeling. The Liberals are in favor of outdoor GMO trials and also of general cultivation approvals. In addition, the party uses its lengthy response to once again place its accusations against "Ohne Gentechnik" (Non GMO) labeling. And finally, the FDP even spreads the latest narrative of the genetic engineering supporters once again, in which they draw a direct line from Corona vaccine to alleged " wonder plants". The fact that the two have little to do with each other is studiously ignored.

Genetic engineering as a campaign issue in 2021?

The parties' positions on genetic engineering and GMOs are thus in some cases far apart, which is likely to make the coalition negotiations on this issue in Stuttgart after the elections difficult in almost all constellations, but exciting in any case. What is particularly new is that the CDU is now again quite openly in favor of genetically modified crops - even in Baden-Württemberg, which is traditionally critical of genetic engineering.

GMOs, and in particular the future regulation of their newer varieties such as CRISPR and the like, therefore certainly have potential as election campaign material in the German super-election year 2021 - right up to the federal election in September. In April, the debate will pick up speed with the publication of the EU survey study. The discussion about detection methods for "new genetic engineering" products will also play a role. In order to demonstrate to the political parties the importance of the issue and the wishes and interests of consumers, farmers and the food and feed industry, surveys such as the current one conducted by the Action Network for GMO-Free Agriculture are a good tool for civil society - be it for associations, companies or even individuals.

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