VLOG General Assembly and Symposium: Executive Board confirmed

- On 6 July 2022, this year's VLOG General Assembly (GA) took place in Berlin. The incumbent Executive Board members were confirmed. In the afternoon, for the first time, there was also an "Ohne Gentechnik" (Non-GMO) Symposium, open also to the industry public.

State Secretary Silvia Bender (BMEL - Ministry of Agriculture) and VLOG Managing Director Alexander Hissting at the 2022 GA

Every three years, the VLOG Executive Board is newly elected. The current members Dr. Juliane Falzmann (Rewe), Barbara Fiedler (Goldsteig cheese dairies), Bernhard Stoll (Kraftfutterwerk Kehl), Dr. Michael Südbeck (PHW Group) and Christoph Zimmer (Bioland e.V.) stood for election again and were clearly confirmed by the VLOG members. One other candidate received fewer votes and was not elected, as the Executive Board is limited to five members. Juliane Falzmann, who recently replaced Karin Voss (Edeka) on the Board, was confirmed by the members for the first time.

State Secretary Silvia Bender: Support from the Ministry

At the start of the General Assembly, State Secretary Silvia Bender from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) delivered a keynote address. She acknowledged the success story of "Ohne Gentechnik" and VLOG and assured the support of the German government, explicitly also on behalf of Minister Cem Özdemir.

With regard to the ongoing EU genetic engineering re-regulation process, Silvia Bender said: "As the BMEL, we will clearly advocate that the existing level of protection be maintained, and this is also to include the new techniques". Transparency, freedom of choice and mandatory labeling must be maintained at any rate, she said.

For the first time: Additional "Ohne Gentechnik" Symposium

In the afternoon, an additional "Ohne Gentechnik" Symposium was held for the first time. It was attended not only by VLOG members but also by representatives of ministries, authorities, parliamentary groups, associations and the media. This conference was supported by the Convention Fund of the Berlin Government Department for Economics, Energy and Enterprises.

Cultivation and alternative export routes: exciting insights from Ukraine

Vitaly Kushnir from the Ukrainian agribusiness ATK Group provided an insight into his country's impressive efforts to maintain agricultural production and the export of agricultural goods such as GMO-free feed under extremely difficult conditions, even in times of war. Both continue to operate. After the blockade of the Black Sea ports, exports have now received a strong boost via alternative routes. A large portion of the exports are now shipped by rail via a transshipment terminal in Poland, where the goods are transferred from Ukrainian broad-gauge rail cars to Central European standard-gauge rail cars.

BfN: Classification of new genetic engineering as "genetic engineering" is consistent

Dr. Samson Simon, deputy head of the department "Evaluation of Genetically Modified Organisms/Enforcement of the Genetic Engineering Act" department at the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), then explained very lucidly why the new genetic engineering processes should clearly be regarded as genetic engineering. Even "risk-free" or "nature-identical", as often claimed by proponents, these products are not intrinsically. The ECJ ruling of 2018, according to which the same rules apply to newer genetic engineering as to all other genetic engineering methods, is therefore technically consistent and did not surprise anyone at BfN.

Panel discussion on EU genetic engineering re-regulation: Risk or opportunity?

This presentation provided a good basis for the concluding panel discussion with Eva Bell (BMEL), Daniela Wannemacher (BUND) and the Members of the Bundestag Karl Bär (Greens) and Albert Stegemann (CDU), which was moderated by journalist Daniela Siebert.

The topic was the question of how a new EU regulation of genetic engineering can succeed in the interest of consumers and the "Ohne Gentechnik" economy. There was agreement that consumers have the right to know how their food was produced. However, Albert Stegemann took the view that it was first necessary to clarify which of the new processes were actually genetic engineering. For the other panelists, this question had been clearly resolved by the ECJ ruling.

There were dissenting opinions on the question of whether the new EU regulation was more of a "risk" or an "opportunity. After all, it is also conceivable that the new regulation would lead to even better transparency than the previous rules. Eva Bell reiterated that the BMEL would support the continuation of mandatory labeling, transparency and freedom of choice, also with regard to new genetic engineering. How this can be achieved in detail with the coalition partner FDP, who has a completely different position on this, will only become clear once a concrete proposal from the EU Commission has become available.

Since this is a regulation at EU level, the outcome also depends on the positioning of the other Member States and the EU Parliament, most of which cannot yet be predicted. It therefore remains important that the "Ohne Gentechnik" sector’s voice is clearly heard - for example by participating in the EU consultation process, which runs until 22 July 2022.